House GOP insists: We’re not giving up on ObamaCare repeal

Greg Nash

House Republicans on Tuesday said they are not giving up on their effort to repeal ObamaCare despite the failure of their replacement bill last week. 

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said lawmakers will keep trying to find a path forward on repeal and replacement even while moving on to other issues in the short term. 

“We’re going to get this right, and in the meantime we’re going to do all of our other work that we came here to do,” he told reporters Tuesday. 

{mosads}Any repeal and replacement effort faces long odds. House Republicans were unable to come together last week, and leaders had to pull the bill from consideration in a major defeat. It is unclear what could change to allow the policy differences in the conference to be bridged. 

Furthermore, President Trump has indicated he is done with the issue and is moving on to tax reform. 

Still, multiple lawmakers in the House GOP conference meeting on Tuesday called for keeping up efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare. 

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), co-chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said while leaving the meeting that he didn’t think much was separating different factions when the repeal bill failed last week and if that gap can be closed, “you could bring the bill back up.”

Lawmakers speaking at the open mic section of the conference meeting called for continuing repeal efforts.

“I think the overwhelming response I heard in there was a real desire to continue” on repeal, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said. Meadows chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, which largely opposed last week’s measure, helping deprive it of the votes it needed. 

Meadows said he is continuing to speak to Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the centrist Tuesday Group, and that the two had spoken on Monday. 

Still, Meadows said it’s “too early to tell” if there’s progress. 

The Senate was already wary of the House repeal bill, and after its failure, Republicans in the upper chamber expressed little interest in moving forward on the same path. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, on Monday called for working with Democrats, rather than trying to pass a fast-track “reconciliation” bill with only Republican votes. 

“If they can get 216 votes, that’s great,” Cornyn added to reporters on Tuesday. “We’ll take it up over here.” 

Asked if there’s a path forward via reconciliation, he said: “I think you would have to ask them. I mean, we can’t do anything until they do.”

The two key GOP chairmen have also indicated they are moving on. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) says he is turning the page to tax reform. 

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), speaking to reporters Tuesday put his focus on the narrower issue of continuing to fund ObamaCare payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions, to prevent insurers from pulling out of the market.

“[That is] a $7 billion appropriation we have to figure out how to fund or the plans likely could get cancelled,” Walden said. 

Ryan notably declined to put a timeline on when he hopes to revisit repeal. 

Still, the resounding message from leadership and members at Tuesday’s GOP conference Tuesday was “let’s get this done,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.).

“The consensus in the room is we need to get this done,” said Loudermilk, while noting that leadership did not lay out the next steps.

“We’re just having an open discussion right now about how to do that. We’ll see in the next few days.” 

Loudermilk said the bill would need some changes to achieve consensus, but added, “I think we’re not very far from having something we can all agree on.” 

“The American people want this done. We want it done. The game didn’t end on Friday. We still got halftime. … The game would have been over if the bill failed, but we decided to take a halftime and reassess.”

Ryan tried to encourage members to come together and continue to work on a plan that Republicans can agree on, members said afterward.

After Ryan said he would pull the bill Friday, some members began blaming the conservative House Freedom Caucus for blowing their chance at repealing ObamaCare. 

“Our leaders today are saying ‘let’s not isolate,'” said. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). 

“They didn’t even use the word ‘Freedom Caucus.’ Let’s not isolate certain members. Let’s figure out a way to come together.” 

Tags John Cornyn Kevin Brady Paul Ryan
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