Nation

Trump floats repealing Obamacare now and replacing it later

Donald Trump.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Donald Trump.

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump on Friday said that if Republican senators can’t strike a deal on their health bill, they should immediately repeal Obamacare and then replace it later.

Trump’s suggestion on Twitter came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was trying to reach a compromise by the end of the week with Republican senators who are withholding support of his effort to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time.

With the comment, Trump aligned himself with at least one of the conservative holdouts, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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Paul said Friday on Twitter that he’d spoken to Trump and “Senate leadership about this and agree. Let’s keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away.”

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Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and frequent Trump critic, also agreed. He said in a statement Friday that if there isn’t a health deal by July 10, when the Senate returns to session, Trump should call on Congress to “immediately repeal as much of Obamacare as is possible under congressional budget reconciliation rules.”

Sasse said in that scenario, Trump should also call on Congress to cancel its August recess and work “through regular order, six days per week” to write a health package that can be voted on by Labor Day in September.

But conservatives aren’t the only ones holding out on a deal. Several more moderate members of the Senate Republican conference also oppose McConnell’s bill, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would result in 22 million fewer Americans having health insurance over 10 years.

GOP Bill Would Slash Medicaid Over Next 20 Years, CBO Finds

One idea under discussion Thursday to win over the moderates: keeping Obamacare’s 3.8 percent tax on net investment income to bolster subsidies for low-income people in the law’s exchanges. Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said he expects the party’s Senate leaders will scrap their effort to repeal that tax.

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Leaders are also considering a proposal by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to allow health insurers to sell cheaper plans as long as they also sell policies that meet Obamacare standards -- but that idea, too, could run into moderate opposition.

McConnell can only afford to lose two of the 52 Senate Republicans in the 100-member Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence able to cast a tie-breaking vote for the GOP if necessary. McConnell delayed a vote he had planned to hold this week after five Republican senators said they’d vote against a key procedural motion. Several others said they opposed his bill after the vote was delayed.

Republican leadership’s original plan was to bring up a lightning-strike repeal bill in January in order to get it to the president’s desk shortly after he took office, with replace to come later. But moderates and conservatives alike balked at the idea, for different reasons.

Moderates who had voted for earlier repeal bills when there was no chance of them becoming law suddenly wanted a replacement to be ready first, and feared pulling the rug out from millions of people who had gotten insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And conservatives wanted a broader repeal than the one President Barack Obama had vetoed a year earlier, which left in place the ACA’s regulatory framework but gutted its financial underpinnings.

The Congressional Budget Office scored that earlier bill three days before Trump took office, and the results were ugly: 32 million would lose insurance over a decade and premiums would double, the office said.