Some U.S. House Republicans doubtful
ahead of vote to begin Obamacare repeal
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[January 13, 2017]
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of
Representatives moved toward a Friday vote to begin dismantling
Obamacare despite anxiety among some Republicans they were rushing into
a major step without knowing the budget consequences or having a firm
idea of how they would replace the healthcare law.
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
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 marketplace.
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 spending.
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.
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A boy waits in line at a health insurance enrollment event in
Cudahy, California March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House
Freedom Caucus, which has about 40 members, said they were undecided
about how to vote.
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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