The Republican-led Congress, under pressure from President-elect
Donald Trump to act quickly, made the first move toward scrapping
Obamacare on Thursday as the Senate voted to instruct key committees
to draft legislation to repeal it.
The House plans to vote on the measure on Friday, Speaker Paul Ryan
said. Some Republican lawmakers said on Thursday they were not sure
how they would vote.
"I don't want to vote for this and say itís the first step (toward
repeal), and find out that there are some long-term budget
consequences," said Republican Representative Mark Amodei.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said
earlier this month that repealing President Barack Obama's signature
health insurance law in its entirety would cost roughly $350 billion
over the next decade. Republicans say a good Obamacare replacement
strategy would reduce government spending, but they have not agreed
on a consensus plan.
Amodei said he was leaning for now toward voting for the Obamacare
repeal resolution. But he added that "listening to the scuttlebutt
on the floor ... as of right now, my impression is, they (House
leadership) don't have the votes."
The fate of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare,
is a high-stakes political showdown between Republicans and
Democrats that potentially jeopardizes medical coverage for millions
of Americans and risks causing chaos in the health insurance
Democrats accused Republicans of rushing to scrap Obamacare, a law
that has enabled up to 20 million previously uninsured Americans to
obtain health coverage, without yet having a firm replacement plan.
The Democrats say Obamacare has allowed growing numbers of Americans
to get medical insurance and helped slow the rise in healthcare
Republicans have called Obamacare federal government overreach and
have sought to undermine it in Congress and the courts since it was
passed by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2010.
Trump, the Republican president-elect who takes office on Jan. 20,
called Obamacare a "disaster" during his campaign and pledged to
repeal and replace it.
Conservative Republicans as well as moderates expressed concern
about launching a repeal before there is clarity about how to
replace provisions of the complicated and far-reaching law.
Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House
Freedom Caucus, which has about 40 members, said they were undecided
about how to vote.
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Moderate Republican Representative Charlie Dent has "major concerns"
about the process, according to a spokesman, fearing a repeal vote
at the start diminishes the leverage that may be needed to get some
lawmakers to back a replacement later.
The resolution passed by the Senate on Thursday instructs committees
of the House and Senate to draft repeal legislation by Jan. 27. Both
chambers will then need to approve the resulting legislation before
any repeal goes into effect.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi vowed to fight. "I think it's
easier to win a fight when something is going to be taken away from
you," Pelosi said in an appearance with elderly Americans who talked
about how they had been helped by the law's provisions, including
lower prescription drug costs.
Ryan said while Congress would take some replacement steps, the
incoming Trump administration would be able to act on its own on
some aspects, which he did not detail. Ryan said lawmakers were
working on dismantling Obamacare "in sync" with Trump.
"We're not holding hard deadlines, only because we want to get it
right," Ryan said.
Trump put new pressure on congressional Republicans on Wednesday
when he said Obamacare repeal and replacement should happen
"essentially simultaneously." An influential conservative group,
Heritage Action, late on Wednesday pressed lawmakers to back the
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the replacement effort
would likely tackle drug pricing.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey,
Lisa Lambert and Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter
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