GOP Rep. Mo Brooks says town hall protests may prevent Obamacare repeal

Story highlights

  • "I don't know if we're going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active," Brooks said.
  • "And you may not even see a vote to repeal Obamacare, you might see something where they call it a repeal but really it's an amendment," he added.

(CNN)Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said Thursday that protests at town halls around the country might prevent Republican lawmakers from repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"I'll tell you, Toni, there are a, in my opinion, a significant number of congressmen who are being impacted by these kinds of protests and their spine is a little bit weak," the Alabama congressman said in an interview on "The Morning Show with Toni & Gary" on WBHP 800 Alabama radio. "And I don't know if we're going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active, they're putting pressure on congressman and there's not a counter-effort to steel the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country."
Brooks continued, "And you may not even see a vote to repeal Obamacare, you might see something where they call it a repeal but really it's an amendment. You and I have talked about this before. We need an outright repeal of Obamacare and then whatever's gonna come after it, fine, let's have that discussion. But this monstrosity needs to be repealed and right now, in my judgment, we don't have the votes in Congress to pass a repeal bill, in part because of what these people are doing."
Since Donald Trump's inauguration, protesters have disrupted town halls held by Republican legislators, with the potential repeal of Obamacare emerging as one of the most controversial issues. Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz claimed that protesters are out to "bully and intimidate" lawmakers.
Brooks similarly painted a grim portrait of the protests, claiming that there were "some anarchist types, criminal element types, disruptor types," though he described a meeting he held on Wednesday with local leaders of "Indivisible," a national organizing group that opposes President Trump's agenda, as a "polite exchange of ideas."
Brooks also expressed concern that neither House Speaker Paul Ryan nor the White House are fully behind repeal of President Obama's healthcare law, comparing Ryan's position on the issue to his position on so-called "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.
"Well, you gotta understand that it's about like, am I for amnesty or not for amnesty? Paul Ryan will insist he's not for amnesty, but the positions he takes on amnesty are consistent with amnesty," the congressman said. "He just says that's not it. Like if I make an illegal alien pay a dollar fine, that's not amnesty. Make him a citizen for a buck, OK? That's the definition he uses. What they're using now with the phrase repeal Obamacare, quote-unquote, is not a repeal like you and I understand the meaning of the word repeal. Repeal of Obamacare means you say public law, give the number, is hereby repealed. The whole thing is dead. That's a repeal. Anything less than that is an amendment. But they're calling an amendment a repeal in order to deceive the public."
Ryan has repeatedly said he wants to repeal and replace the law.
In Thursday's radio interview, Brooks went on to cite Trump's support for covering everybody with health insurance as evidence that the presidential administration may not support repeal.
"Quite frankly, I don't know that this administration supports a full repeal," he said. "To the contrary, the president has expressed support for some of the provisions that are in Obamacare. And if that's the case, if that ends up being the administration's position, then that is not a repeal of Obamacare, that's an amendment to Obamacare."
When the host referred to a popular Obamacare provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, Brooks said that wasn't the only element of the law that Trump supported.
"It's bigger than that, Toni," he said. "Remember when Donald Trump publicly stated during the campaign that he's going to make sure everybody has health insurance? OK? That's Obamacare."