iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — They control the Senate, the House, and soon, the White House — but Republicans are still divided over three words: “repeal and replace.”
As Senate Republicans prepare to this week to begin a long process of repealing and replacing Obamacare, the party is still divided over how that should be done, and when.
At his first news conference as president-elect Wednesday, Donald Trump said Republicans would submit a “repeal and replace” plan “almost simultaneously” after his pick for secretary of health and human services is confirmed.
“It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day. Could be the same hour,” he said. “We’re going to do repeal and replace. Very complicated stuff.”
On Tuesday, Trump told The New York Times that Republicans “have to get to business” on repealing and replacing Obamacare and said a repeal vote would come “some time next week” followed “very quickly or simultaneously” by a replacement vote.
GOP leaders voiced support for a “repeal and delay” strategy for Obamacare after the election — a quick or immediate repeal vote that would phase out the law over a number of years, giving lawmakers time to construct a replacement.
Now, top Republican officials on Capitol Hill say they will present their replacement proposal as they vote on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which they hope will includes elements of the replacement.
“Our goal is to bring it all together concurrently,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to use every tool at our disposal, through legislation, through regulation, to bring ‘replace’ concurrent along with ‘repeal,’ so that we can save people from this mess.”
On Wednesday, the Senate will begin the process of constructing a repeal bill with a marathon vote to begin the budget reconciliation process. The House is expected to vote on it later this week, which would instruct relevant committee to start working on repeal language.
But some Republicans want Congress to take more time to begin this process and push back the non-binding deadline for the committee to put together a replacement.
Republicans will need just 51 votes to repeal the law, but 60 to implement any comprehensive replacement plan.
Sen. Bob Corker, who introduced legislation Tuesday night to bump back the timeline on repeal budget items said he was “doing a public service by issuing caution.”
“I just want to make sure we’ve done something that’s prudent and not just a political point,” he added. “There’s consternation on both sides of the building.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, chair of the crucial Health, Education Labor and Pensions committee told reporters Tuesday, “We are not looking for a quick fix, we are looking for something that works over the long haul.”
He said that work on replacement could be done in a gradual, piecemeal fashion.
House conservatives are also reluctant to vote on a budget measure until knowing more about plans to replace Obamacare.
Roughly 20 million people have received healthcare coverage under President Obama’s signature healthcare law. According to new data from the Department of Health and Human services, 300,000 more people signed up for health insurance this year than last year, as of late December 2016.
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