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Story highlights

Boehner's former colleagues face an uncertain path forward on repealing Obamacare

The former speaker noted the difficulty Republicans would confront in getting everyone on board

Washington CNN —  

Former House Speaker John Boehner threw cold water Thursday on the prospect of congressional Republicans following through on their pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“They’ll fix Obamacare,” the former Ohio congressman predicted at a conference hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Orlando, Florida. “I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.”

Boehner’s comments come as his former colleagues face an uncertain path forward on dismantling then-President Barack Obama’s signature achievement. The party has yet to settle on a replacement plan, and many members are facing criticism at town hall meetings this week from constituents who are upset about the potential ramifications of Republicans following through on the campaign pledge.

The former speaker noted the difficulty Republicans would confront in getting everyone on board.

“This is not all that hard to figure out, except this: In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever one time agreed on what a healthcare proposal should look like. Not once,” Boehner said.

He said lawmakers were too confident in how easy they thought the process would go.

“All this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal – yeah we’ll do replace, replace – I started laughing because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

Boehner said he warned GOP leaders about repealing Obamacare without a replacement ready because the members “will never ever agree what the bill should be.”

“Perfect always becomes the enemy of the good,” he added.

Boehner also predicted that some of the fundamental pieces of the health care law would remain in place, including coverage for children up to age 26 and for those with pre-existing conditions. “Most of the Affordable Care Act, the framework, is going to stay there.”

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, dismissed Boehner’s remarks in an interview Thursday with CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.”

“Unlike John Boehner, I can’t read minds and I can’t tell fortunes. But I can tell you there is a very strong consensus in the House that Obamacare is collapsing on the American people,” he said, adding that deliberations on fixing health care issues are “moving very rapidly.”

Beyond health care policy, Boehner also weighed in on the first month of the Trump presidency, saying he expects the tumult that has defined the start of the new administration to last.

“I expect the Trump presidency is going to look a lot like the Trump campaign – sometimes divisive, sometimes incoherent, sometimes disrespectful – but also sometimes effective,” Boehner said. “And I don’t know why anybody would think, if you’ve watched his campaign for the last 12 months, why his presidency of the next 12 months is going to be much different. It’s not.”

CNN’s Kayte Steinmetz contributed to this report.