The days of swift and decisive Obamacare repeal are long gone.
Not a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, Republican leaders in Congress have run up against just about every speed bump imaginable in their quest to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Deep ideological divisions have burst into the open over how much of the health care law to roll back and how quickly, as well as the fate of Medicaid expansion and federal funding for Planned Parenthood — all as angry constituents who support Obamacare are hounding GOP lawmakers at town halls across the country.
In Republicans’ telling, it was never supposed to be this difficult: No other issue has been more potent in uniting the party and galvanizing its base than gutting Obamacare, and GOP lawmakers kicked off the new Congress with a fresh thirst to exercise their newly gained power in Washington and kill the health care law once and for all.
Here are the major sticking points that have Republicans struggling on Obamacare repeal:
Conservatives hold the line on repeal
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, want Obamacare repealed — and they’re unhappy it’s taken this long.
They signaled to party leaders this week that there’s no excuse for the party to delay a repeal vote, and that any repeal bill that’s less aggressive than what the GOP approved in the past is simply unacceptable.
“Our simple message is: We don’t want to have ‘Obamacare light.’ That would be a mistake,” GOP Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina told CNN on Tuesday.
GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has partnered with Sanford on a replacement bill, said conservatives adamantly oppose the notion of “keep part of Obamacare.”
“Most of the conservatives are saying we ought to repeal the whole thing,” Paul told CNN. “We did it once in 2015. That’s what we feel like we ought to be voting on.”
What gets replaced?
Republicans moved quickly last month to begin the process of repealing Obamacare. But before long, rank-and-file members started to ring the alarm bell, arguing that things were moving too fast.
Repealing the sweeping health care law in the absence of a replacement plan, lawmakers said, would be a huge political liability for Republicans and constituents would blame the party for any disruptions or loss in coverage.
To quell the widespread concerns, GOP leaders committed to simultaneously “repeal and replace” parts of the law, and got to work on inserting replacement measures into the repeal package. They’ve also said the replacement would happen in stages.
“A lot of the delay we’re seeing now is based on a disagreement over what elements of replace get included in the bill,” said Dan Holler, vice president of government relations at Heritage Action for America. “Because you have to build consensus over what those things are … all of that takes a little time.”
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SOURCE: MJ Lee and Lauren Fox