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GOP hesitancy grows on health law repeal without substitute

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. talks with reporters at Trump Tower in New York after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON >> Growing numbers of Republicans showed discomfort Monday over obliterating President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul without having a replacement to show voters. Hoping to capitalize on the jitters, Democrats staged an evening Senate talk-a-thon to condemn the GOP push.

With Donald Trump just 12 days from entering the White House, Republicans have positioned a repeal and replacement of Obama’s 2010 health care statute atop their congressional agenda. But GOP lawmakers have never been able to rally behind an alternative, and Republican senators are increasingly voicing reluctance to vote to yank health coverage from millions of people without a substitute.

That hesitancy was fed as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., among those who want to delay repeal until a substitute is ready, said Trump telephoned him Friday night and expressed support for doing both together. The president-elect expressed a similar sentiment shortly after his election, but his call to Paul came as GOP congressional leaders have pushed toward an early repeal vote, to be followed by work on alternative health care legislation that could take months or years to craft.

“There are gathering voices of people saying, ‘Hmm, maybe we should have a replacement the same day as a repeal,’” Paul told reporters Monday.

The budding Republican divisions come as the GOP-led Senate pushed toward a final vote this week on a budget that would shield a future bill repealing Obama’s law from a Democratic filibuster.

Once passed by the Senate and later the House, the budget would prevent Senate Democrats from using those delaying tactics against the later legislation repealing Obama’s statute. Filibusters take 60 votes to halt in a chamber Republicans control by just 52-48.

Lawmakers were also focused on confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet.

In Tuesday’s initial hearings, committees will examine Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Trump’s pick for attorney general, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, his choice for homeland security secretary. Seven others were also set for hearings this week.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee planned a hearing on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia meddled in the U.S. election by hacking and distributing Democratic party emails to help Trump win the White House.

Among the witnesses will be FBI Director James Comey. It will be his first public appearance before Congress since he announced just before the election that the FBI was studying additional emails connected to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a revelation many Democrats say contributed to her defeat by Trump.

On the House side of the Capitol, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., met in his office Monday evening with top Trump transition aides to discuss GOP plans to revamp the tax system.

Democrats looking to cast themselves as populist defenders of a law that’s expanded health coverage to 20 million Americans used speeches to C-SPAN cameras and a nearly empty Senate chamber late Monday to attack Republicans for commencing a repeal effort with no alternative in hand.

“The Republicans hate Obamacare. They hate it almost as much as the devil hates holy water,” No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said, using the law’s nickname, as his party’s planned hours of speeches began.

“They certainly have a plan to repeal it, but when it comes to replacing it, they don’t offer anything. But they’re going to go ahead with this,” said Durbin, who said repeal would be “devastating.”

Among GOP senators saying repeal should wait until a Republican alternative is ready is Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Health committee, which will be in the middle of the health-care rewrite. Others voicing that sentiment include Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

The budget gives congressional committees until Jan. 27 to produce legislation annulling much of the health care law, though the consequences for missing that deadline are minor. Even so, Corker, Collins and three other GOP senators introduced a budget amendment Monday delaying that target date until March 3.

Citing Trump’s support for a simultaneous repeal and replacement, Corker said allowing more time would provide “additional time to get the policy right” and create “a stable transition” between striking Obama’s law and enacting a new one.

In a column posted Monday on FoxNews.com, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote, “Once repeal is passed we will turn to replacement policies that cost less and work better than what we have now.” He said Republicans would replace the law “in manageable pieces,” not one huge bill.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, McConnell said replacement would follow repeal “rapidly” but did not define the timetable.

McConnell met with Trump in New York Monday morning to discuss the GOP agenda.

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  • 1/3 of the Senators are up for election in 2 years. With the working class now, finally, voicing their opinions I would hate to be a defender of Obamacare!! Know anyone, other than Union workers, who aren’t getting higher health care rates????

  • Stoopid fools had eight years to get their fuc-ing act together and were in hibernation. Don’t expect any miracles soon because they’ll need to convert everything to Braille with a blind president and congress.

  • Those 20 million with preexisting conditions would not have medical insurance coverage if not subsidized by the healthy and federal support. Their premiums are high for a reason. Obamacare was doomed from the start. Let the Democrats come up with something that works. We’re waiting.

    • Les you’re so full of sh-t. The ball is in the republicans court and I know that they haven’t a fuc-ing clue as what to do. Obamacare is the democrats plan what does the republican majority have to offer. Better not take too long because the sharks are getting restless. Welcome to the real world.

  • The last time Republicans had a plan for healthcare was in 1993 when they proposed a plan in opposition to “Hillarycare,” and “Obamacare” is effectively a twin of the Republican’s 1993 plan.

    • Good one. Didn’t know that Obamacare/ACA was nearly a clone to the Republican 93 plan. Politics! Republicans would be stupid to not offer a replacement plan at the same time of the repeal.

      • In 1993, Republicans scrambled to forge an alternative to “Hillarycare.”

        Republican Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island was the point man. The bill he introduced, Health Equity and Access Reform Today, (yes, that spells HEART) had a list of 20 co-sponsors that was a who’s who of Republican leadership. There was Minority Leader Bob Dole, R- Kan., Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and many others. There also were two Democratic co-sponsors.

        Among other features, the Chafee bill included:

        An individual mandate;

        Creation of purchasing pools;

        Standardized benefits;

        Vouchers for the poor to buy insurance;

        A ban on denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

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