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After health-care repeal vote, some in GOP fear a cliff

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., spoke during a Dec. 1 news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, spoke to the media after the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 6. Republicans are eagerly planning initial votes next month on dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law.

WASHINGTON » Republicans are eagerly planning initial votes next month on dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law, a cherished GOP goal. But many worry that while Congress tries to replace it, the party will face ever-angrier voters, spooked health insurers and the possibility of tumbling off a political cliff.

Republicans have said they first want to vote to unwind as much of the health care law as they can, though it wouldn’t take effect for perhaps three years. That’s to give them and new President Donald Trump time to write legislation constructing a new health care system — a technically and politically daunting task that has frustrated GOP attempts for unity for years.

Underscoring the GOP’s many decisions ahead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters today that the phase-in period “is yet to be determined.” He said Republicans “will work expeditiously to come up with a better proposal than current law.”

Many congressional Republicans worry they’d be vulnerable during the transition period between a repeal vote and actually replacing Obama’s law with a new system. Twenty million people now covered would face uncertainty about their future benefits, while unsettled health insurers might quickly start boosting premiums or stop selling policies in some areas to protect themselves.

In both cases, public wrath could be aimed at the party controlling the White House and Capitol — the GOP.

“It’s going to be a difficult challenge to pass a replacement” for Obama’s law and make sure some people don’t lose coverage, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said. Health insurers will need time to adjust to a new system and if Congress waits until the last minute to enact a new law, “It’s not going to work,” she said.

A related fear: Congress and Trump enact legislation dismantling Obama’s law but as the clock ticks down to its expiration, the GOP remains divided over replacing it. The political imperative for Republicans to pass something would be overwhelming but with Congress being Congress, there are no guarantees.

“When you set up a cliff, you can go over it,” Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said.

Many Republicans insist that won’t happen. They view setting an end date on Obama’s law as a way to force congressional action on replacing it without hurting consumers.

“There needs to be a reasonable transition period so people don’t have the rug pulled out from under them,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters last week.

But in one of many questions dividing Republicans, they differ over what a reasonable transition period means.

No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said there will likely be a three-year gap between Congress’ votes to repeal Obama’s law and when that would actually kick in.

“We’re not going to let anybody fall through the cracks,” Cornyn said.

Other Republicans, particularly in the House, worry that three years is too long to leave voters, insurers and health care providers in suspense. Eager to prevent a drawn-out effort to pass new health care legislation from spinning into a damaging issue for the 2018 campaigns, many want the process to take a year or less.

“I hope it’s not years with no replacement,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, who next year will head the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s political organization. “Quality matters more than speed, but speed can’t be ignored. You don’t want the American people to feel too uncomfortable for too long.”

Republicans have yet to decide what their replacement will look like.

Though details are scant, Trump and Ryan have proposed tax breaks to help people pay insurance premiums. Both want to eliminate Obama’s mandate that most individuals get coverage and most employers cover workers, but that could be replaced with a requirement that people maintain “continuous” coverage or face higher premiums.

Democrats, who enacted Obama’s law in 2010 over solid GOP opposition, have signaled they won’t help Republicans demolish it.

“Bring it on,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., next year’s minority leader, said of GOP repeal efforts. “They have nothing to put in its place.”

Ryan and McConnell say the GOP-controlled Congress plans to pass a procedural measure in January that will let Republicans push repeal legislation through the Senate later with just a simple majority.

That’s important because with the Senate GOP holding a 52-48 majority next year, Democrats would otherwise be able to block a repeal bill unless it gets 60 votes.

The early procedural vote could also signal that the GOP is intent on repealing Obama’s law, while saving the more difficult details for later.

They are still deciding what that part of the process will look like — and what their replacement will be.

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  • “will work expeditiously to come up with a better proposal than current law.”

    What the hell have they been doing for the past 8 years? How many times have they tried to repeal it? If they don’t have anything to replace it by now, they probably never well as they are the party of No. Sadly Nixon is frowning upon republicans for their hypocrisy.

    • Betting against Trump has helped make him President Elect, but you go right ahead throwing good money after bad, like a gambler who finds he cannot walk away from the table even while going broke.

      • Who is betting against the Donald? What the hell are you talking about? It is you who want to repeal Obama care or more accurately Nixon care. So what the hell are you going to replace it with? The ball is in your court and I will enjoy watching you screw up. 🙂

        • I think they could hire a bunch of monkeys, or maybe even Hawaii State legislators, and come up with a better plan than Obamacare. Maybe they plan on the transition being so long because they want to give the Democrats a chance to read it. That would explain the 3 years.

        • Hey boots…YOOOHOOOO
          You listening to JONATHAN GRUBER in collaboration with FAKE NEWS threw the BABY out with the BATH WATER!
          Bottom line…GOP cleaning up YOURS & O’s MESS….PERIOD!
          This was the bill that KKKlastri said it was O’s SIGNATURE LEGACY law…you agree with your bud KKKlastri?

          January 20, 2017 #MAGA

        • Keonigohan – You continue your incredibly bizarre fixation with me. Do your family members know that you’re obsessed with me and that you think and write about me so often?

          I never think about you. Not once ever.

          See a doctor.

        • KKKlastri…how’s your OBAMAcare working out fer ya?! You said that is O’s SIGNATURE LEGACY.
          Thank Heaven’s the shoe is on the other foot now….what so funny is you were always this vitriolic ever since you 1st replied to me several years ago…you are a very angry person. You don’t have to be a Dr to know that you need …I feel for your family if you have any.
          You can fib all you want but everyone here knows what kind of person you are.

          So what has O accomplished that benefited a MAJORITY of Americans? You have never answered this question.

          January 20, 2017 #MAGA

    • @ boots…approx. 62 times the GOP have tried to repeal all or part of this DUMBEST piece of trash in American history…O & Dem Senate vetoed/stopped all attempts.
      That answers all your dumb questions & assertions.

      GOP have to clean up your guys mess!

      JANUARY 20, 2017

      • IRT Keonigohan: You’re absolutely right. The aca must be repealed because of all the provisions. It is so complicated that I’ll bet hardly anyone in Congress fully understands the bill. What it amounts to is government controlling every aspect of health care. An example, which has been mentioned before, is how the government can determine when, what size, and location of any hospital being built. It is socialism, period. Everyone talks about pre existing conditions and staying on your parents policy until the age of 26. All that talk is a diversion. It has been proven the ACA was passed on a lie. It is the prime reason Democrats lost the house (by record majorities) Senate, the Presidency, and about a thousand State positions. Dems who voted for it, never read it. It cost many their jobs. It must, and show go.

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