Congressional Republicans unveil plans to repeal, replace Obamacare

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told a joint Senate-House Republican retreat in Philadelphia Wednesday that plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, will not be realized until the spring.

In addition to addressing a long-sought goal of repealing Obamacare, discussions at the three-day retreat also revolved around tax reform and President Trump’s plan for a wall on the border with Mexico.

According to Ryan’s schedule for repeal, a gutting of the law will come in late March or early April.

The GOP had originally intended to begin the task of dismantling Obamacare by late January; however, Republican leaders have admitted the previous time frame was impractical given the enormity of the task.

According to recordings of the Philadelphia meeting obtained by the Washington Post, Republicans appeared to embrace harnessing “reconciliation” as a first step to pull apart the seven-year-old law. 

Under a reconciliation pathway, debate is limited to 20 hours and bills at issue are not subject to filibuster.  Following limited debate, the GOP intends to move forward and apply elements of a replacement.

Expecting to move forward with plans to repeal the ACA as quickly as possible and anticipating votes in the coming weeks, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) told reporters:

“Then we expect that probably toward the latter part of February, or the first part of March, that we should be ready to go with the final reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare.”

Subsequent to the reconciliation, congressional Republicans plan on working collaboratively with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to execute the replacement plan.

The third step to raze the ACA aims to return to “regular order,” by which rules, precedents and customs of Congress which constitute an orderly and deliberative policymaking process concluding with a floor vote will proceed on any final replacement bill.

Despite their bold plans, any final proposal requiring a vote would require a minimum of eight Democratic Senators to vote with Republicans to avert a filibuster. The GOP currently holds 52 seats in the Senate and Democratic cooperation is doubtful.

The unveiling of a repeal plan comes at the same moment former President Obama penned an essay appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine alternatively imploring Republicans to exercise prudence in repealing the law.

Warning of the devastating effects of repealing without a new law to offer coverage to the uninsured is “reckless” and “irresponsible,” Mr. Obama declared.

 

[Reuters via CNBC] [Washington Post] [Photo courtesy AP/Carolyn Kaster]