A group of conservative House Republicans unveiled legislation on Wednesday to repeal and replace Obamacare. The political message behind the bill: It’s not true that Republicans don’t have a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Members of the House Republican Study Committee, led by its chairman, Reps. Mark Walker, and Phil Roe, were emphatic in a news conference that the increasingly heated accusation from Democrats – that Republicans have failed to craft a plan to replace what they repeal from Obamacare – was simply not true.
“I heard again on the House floor when I was down there… just a few minutes ago, how Republicans have no ideas. That’s absolutely false,” Roe said. “We have a plan.”
Walker added: “We’ve got to get out there, we’ve got to get runners on base.”
“Our job is not to delay any longer,” he said. “Our job is to come out of the gate with a particular piece of legislation that garnered more votes than any other legislation in both the 113th and 114th Congress.”
The legislation has been previously introduced by Roe, a physician from Tennessee, but has not received the endorsement of GOP leadership. While it is unlikely to become the main vehicle in the House to repeal Obamacare, it could attract support from a swath of House Republicans.
The bill includes several ideas that Republican lawmakers have advocated for years, such as tax credits to help offset the cost of health coverage and allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines.
The legislation also includes provisions to reform medical liability laws. To pay for the plan, the conservatives proposed an across-the-board cut in non-defense domestic programs over the next several years.
The RSC’s proposal is likely to be one of multiple GOP proposals that emerge from the House and the Senate in the coming months as the Obamacare repeal and replace debate heats up. Earlier in the day, Walker acknowledged to CNN that the process would be complex and drawn out.
“I would call this a Round One of a 15-round heavyweight fight,” Walker said.
The unveiling of the Republican Study Committee’s Obamacare bill comes on the second day of the new Congress, as Republicans and Democrats are quickly drawing their battle lines on the ACA.
Touting the slogan “Make America Sick Again” in a play off of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, Democrats are warning that Republicans are about disrupt millions of people’s health coverage – without offering an alternative solution.
And Republicans – as quick as they have been to get the process of repeal started – have acknowledged that they do not yet have a concrete plan to replace what they roll back.
GOP leaders are currently considering passing a repeal bill but holding off on the repeal from going into effect for a few years. But even this strategy, healthcare experts say, wouldn’t prevent insurance companies from fleeing the individual marketplace or spiking premiums – a reality that has some Republicans on edge about moving too quickly on repeal.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence visited with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier in the day to chart a path forward on rolling back Obamacare.
In a press conference after the meeting, Pence told reporters that the party intends to draw from a “broad range” of ideas as it starts crafting a replacement plan. “Republicans have been offering those ideas again and again literally every year since Obamacare was first signed into law,” Pence said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan once again emphasized that a “transition” period will be necessary.
“We want to make sure that as we give relief to people to Obamacare, we do it in a transition that doesn’t pull the rug out from anybody during that transition period,” Ryan said.