The race to repeal Obamacare is off and running after Congress’s first week back in session, but the once-cohesive GOP effort could face obstacles ahead, as some lawmakers begin to question the fast-paced timeline outlined by President-elect Donald Trump and many Republicans.
As Mr. Trump and some Congress members call for the immediate repeal of the President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), others are pumping the breaks, and not all in the opposition camp are Democrats. Many have noted that some 20 million people could lose their benefits if lawmakers pull the rug out from under the ACA, and worry that the decisions could have political repercussions, as well, as only one in five Americans supports repealing the law without a replacement at the ready.
The push for speed has left Congress split over the law yet again. A majority of Republicans voted to pass a budget resolution last week that would begin dismantling the program, and allow a repeal with a simple majority. But other GOP legislators and Democrats expressed their reservations about rushing reform.
"I'm very concerned on the policy side specifically, that the replacement occur either simultaneously or as close to simultaneously as possible," Rep. Charlie Dent (R) of Pennsylvania told CNN, citing concerns about gaps in coverage and reaction from insurance markets.
In the Senate, five Republican lawmakers have introduced an amendment to the resolution that would delay the deadline to draft a reconciliation bill that would repeal the ACA from Jan. 27 to March 3, giving lawmakers more time to draft and review official replacement proposals before moving forward.
"We just want to make sure that we get it right," Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, one of the supporters of the amendment, told CNN. "One of the problems with Obamacare is that it was rushed through without input from Republicans for the most part, and we realize that insurance markets are complicated. And we don't want people to fall through the cracks."
On Wednesday night, however, the amendment was withdrawn by Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, one of its original backers.
"We realize that that is not a real date, that is a placeholder. That’s the earliest they can come back," he said, according to Roll Call. "Everyone here understands the importance of doing it right."
Trump, who has referred to the system as a “disaster” and repeatedly trumpeted a plan to abolish it while speaking on the campaign trail, said Saturday he has nearly completed a plan to repeal and replace the 2010 legislation, but did not reveal specifics of what that would entail.
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he told The Washington Post in an interview. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”
The president-elect did say the new law would provide people with “great health care” in a “simplified” and more affordable form, and issued a warning to Congress about ramping up efforts to slow the project.
“The Congress can’t get cold feet because the people will not let that happen,” he said.
Trump said he would unveil the plan after Rep. Tom Price (R) of Georgia is confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services, but asserted that he would receive the backing of GOP heavyweights like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, even if it was through social media public pressure tactics similar to those he's used thus far.
"I think we will get approval. I won't tell you how, but we will get approval. You see what’s happened in the House in recent weeks," he told the Post, referring to his tweet criticizing House Republicans' attempt to curb the chamber's independent ethics office.