Obamacare Repeal Overcomes Key Hurdle After Marathon Markups

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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The House GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill is one step closer to final passage, after two key committees approved wording Thursday following marathon markup sessions.

The legislation made it out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, after 27 hours of contentious back-and-forth, with a 31-to-23 vote just before 2 p.m. Eastern. The House Committee on Ways and Means approved their portion of the bill in a 23-16 vote along party lines around 4:40 a.m.

Democrats took strides to make the process as tedious as possible for Republicans in both committees, using a number of tactics to elongate the proceedings.

“Why did the Ways and Means ACA repeal and replace markup take so long?” a GOP aide said in a statement. “Because Democrats kept offering non-germane amendments.”

Energy and Commerce Democrats opted to force the clerk to read the entire bill text, which took nearly an hour, in addition to piling on amendments aimed at trolling their “friends across the aisle” and requesting more time to rail against the legislation in their opening remarks.

Proponents of the GOP’s American Health Care Act, which was introduced Tuesday, praised the progress, lauding it as a critical step in fulfilling their promise to bring down health care costs.

“Ways and Means Republicans just passed legislation that will help Americans finally have access to affordable health care. We voted repeatedly to end Obamacare’s crushing taxes and mandates and ensure patients have more power over their own health care,” Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said at the close of the markup, which lasted over 17 hours. “This legislation reflects President Trump’s strong commitment to improving health care for all Americans. I sincerely thank my colleagues for their hard work and commitment to delivering on the president’s promise.”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden echoed Brady’s sentiments, saying he’s confident the legislation will lead to “patient-centered care.”

“After conducting an open and transparent markup, we are proud to put forth a plan that represents a Better Way for patients and families,” he said in a statement.

While the bill may be headed to the House Committee on the Budget for its next steps, the conservative wing of the party’s concerns remain in tact, with a number of members voicing their hesitations over its language on tax credits and Medicaid reform.

Critics are hopeful changes will be made to the bill before it comes to the floor for a vote. A number of amendments advocated for by the Republican Study Committee — the largest faction of conservatives in the House Republican Conference, representing more than 150 members — were voted down in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

RSC Chairman Mark Walker said he’s appreciative of Congressional leadership, but would like to see a freeze in states that expanded Medicaid, as well as a provision putting work requirements in place for able-bodied, childless Medicaid recipients.

We feel like there are still a couple of different, even though it’s not as strong as putting it through committee,a couple of avenues to get that done,” he told reporters.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would like to see the bill pass the lower chamber before Easter recess.

“This is the closest we’ve been to repealing and replacing Obamacare and … it’s the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” he told reporters at his weekly press conference Thursday.

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