GOP Lawmakers Scramble To Reach Consensus On Obamacare Repeal And Replacement Plan

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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House conservatives are advocating for Congress to move quickly to repeal Obamacare, despite the replacement plan remaining in flux.

GOP lawmakers have yet to reach a consensus on how to move forward with replacing President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation, which is leaving some anxious it might not happen. While a number of members are pushing for parts of the replacement language to be attached to the reconciliation bill, which only requires a simple majority in the Senate, critics fear the continual discussions are leading to paralysis.

The House Freedom Caucus and a number of Republican Study Committee members are pushing leadership to move forward with a budget similar to what was passed in 2015 — which was later vetoed by Obama — to eliminate a number of the law’s provisions. The call is a change from the HFC’s call to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously, the stance they took in January.

“I am concerned that certain senators are going to go wobbly on even the repeal part of this effort,” Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the HFC told reporters Tuesday following a GOP conference meeting. “And consequently, I think we have to move the strongest bill that we have there so we can at least gain that repeal — once we make it clear that Obamacare is not going to be a part of this county’s future then I think there is an opportunity for us to come together as Americans.”

The push to act swiftly is leaving some members concerned repealing without a replacement plan in place could shock the insurance market.

“I don’t think that’s enough (the 2015 repeal bill language), I think you leave the market fracture if you do that — so I think you have to go further than that,” Rep. Phil Roe, a physician-turned-congressman, told reporters. “You have to have a functioning insurance market, that’s what’s falling apart now, if you look at my state, we have one provider in two-thirds of the counties and many of them are going to have none if we don’t do something.”

Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group — who voted against the Obamacare repeal measure in January due to the lack of a consensus on plan —  cautioned Republicans need to be careful about how they move forward because “we are playing with live rounds this time.” Dent voted for the 2015 bill.

“I think we have to have a fully developed and articulated replacement plan prior, at the time of the launch of repeal,” he told reporters, adding he doesn’t believe there should an arbitrary timeline relating when it should be completed, since they need to get it right.

GOP leadership has been vocal about their call to construct the replacement plan using regular rules of order.  The House Committee on Ways and Means and House Committee on Energy and Commerce are tasked with marking up the replacement plan legislation.

“Health care is very important to all Americans. We want to get it right and we’ve been taking our time to do that,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden told reporters. “You’re going to see us come forward with a replacement bill after we repeal that makes sure that people have access to affordable care health for the first time.”

South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, who is expected to introduce legislation that coincides with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s Obamacare replacement plan in coming weeks, said the repeal and replacement need to happen within a reasonable window of time.

“I think that it’s important to be concurrent given people’s understandable fear and anxiety on what comes next for health care, I mean if you simply say this is what we’re against and don’t lay out what you’re for I think there is understandable anxiety of ‘wait a minute, my health care doesn’t have a breach, I mean I still need to take care of me and my loved ones,'” he said. “I think it’s important, if not concurrent, to be awfully near concurrent to repeal and replace.”

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has been leading break-out sessions to lay out what members’ options are over the course of the week.

Texas Rep. Bill Flores told The Daily Caller News Foundation that members of the conference laid out a rough timetable on how to move forward, with members hoping to pass the “repeal plus” bill before the end of March and everything else before August recess.

An all-conference policy meeting to discuss repeal and replacement plans is slated to take place Thursday morning.

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