ObamaCare: Not Over Yet, Lawmakers Back at the Drawing Board
The Trump Administration seemed to put ObamaCare on the backburner last week following Paul Ryan’s decision to cancel the vote on the American Health Care Act, but rumor has it that talks about version 2.0 have already begun.
“We’re not going to retrench into our corners or put up dividing lines,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, promising that Congress will resume the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I think we’re closer today to repealing ObamaCare than we’ve ever been before, and surely even closer than we were Friday,” said House Republican whip Steve Scalise.
“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” added Senator John Thune (R-SD).
Ryan hasn’t told us what the next version of the healthcare bill will look like, nor has he given us a timeframe. But he did say that lawmakers needed to act soon because insurance companies are in the process of developing premiums and packages for 2018.
Despite Trump’s assurances that another healthcare bill will be drafted “very quickly,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there is no immediate plan. “Have we had some discussions and listened to ideas? Yes. Are we actively planning an immediate strategy? Not at this time.”
One such discussion involved White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and members of the Freedom Caucus, whose constituents Trump has blamed for the bill’s failure.
Freedom Caucus member Randy Weber (R-TX) said the discussion allowed lawmakers to “vent” and “share their frustration.”
Nearly all members of the far-right Freedom Caucus opposed Trump’s original healthcare bill, and earning their support will be necessary in passing future legislation.
“I think everyone wants to get to yes and support President Trump,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), a member of the Freedom Caucus. “There is a package in there that is a win-win.”
“I think we will have a better, stronger product that will unify the conference,” said fellow caucus member Raúl Labrador (R-ID).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the issue with Vice President Mike Pence and fellow Republican senators during a closed-door lunch. “Where we are on ObamaCare, regretfully, at the moment is where the Democrats wanted us to be, which is with the status quo,” complained McConnell.
They “ought to be pretty happy about that, because we have the existing law in place, and I think we’re just going to have to see how that works out. We believe it will not work out well, but we’ll see.”
Ryan seemed more optimistic about future negotiations, saying that he wants the GOP to be a “unified” majority rather than a “fractionalized” one. “That means we’re going to sit down and talk things out until we get there, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Other lawmakers seemed ready to move on with other issues.
“I’m about health-cared out,” admits Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS).
“We understand there’s probably members in Congress who feel like ‘Look, we probably need to revisit this, and we need to make an effort to get it done,’” said White House legislative affairs director Marc Short.
“But at this time…there are other things that we have on our priority list that we’re moving on to,” he said, pointing to the upcoming confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the April 28th funding deadline, and tax overhaul legislation.
Editor’s note: This is a complex issue, I still expect this to take several months.