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Republicans make repealing Obamacare 'first order of business'
Wed Jan 4, 2017 | 1:40pm EST
President Barack Obama exhorted fellow Democrats on Wednesday to preserve his legacy-defining healthcare law as Republicans launched their long-desired bid to scrap it in what Vice President-elect Mike Pence called the "first order of business" of Donald Trump's administration.
The Senate opened debate on a resolution setting in motion the Republican drive to repeal the Democratic-backed 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has helped upwards of 20 million previously uninsured Americans obtain medical insurance.
January 4, 2017 01:21PM ET | Bloomberg Government
(Bloomberg) -- The Republican plan to repeal Obamacare overcame its first procedural hurdle in the Senate today even though lawmakers made clear after a morning meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence that any replacement plan is at least months away. The Senate voted 51-48 this afternoon to proceed to the resolution, S. Con. Res. 3, which would set up a filibuster-proof process, ensuring the chamber's consideration of legislation repealing parts of Obamacare and replacing it, either as one bill or as separate measures.
The 54-page document, unveiled yesterday by Budget ChairmanMike Enzi, directs committees of jurisdiction to come up with Affordable Care Act legislation by Jan. 27, meaning a repeal bill could be to Donald Trump's desk by the end February, lawmakers said today. The House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce as well as the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committees are charged with drafting the legislation. For more on the reconciliation bill process clickhere.
Senate action came as Obama and Pence both headed to the Capitol to meet with their respective parties to discuss efforts to preserve or undo the health-care law. House Ways and Means ChairmanKevin Bradyof Texas said that an Obamacare replacement proposal would be laid out on a step-by-step basis and could be fully written by the August recess.
Pence Promises 'Orderly Transition' After Obamacare Repeal
January 4, 2017, 10:55 AM EST
Vice President-elect Mike Pence promised an "orderly transition" through executive and legislative action to repeal and replace Obamacare as President Barack Obama urged Democrats to fight to protect his signature domestic achievement.
"The speaker of the House used the word 'stable,' and we will do that," Pence said Wednesday at a news conference following a private meeting in Washington with House Republicans. There's a "broad range of ideas on how to do this," he said, without giving details. House Speaker Paul Ryan said a focus would be on maintaining patient care. At the same time, Obama -- in his final weeks in office -- met with Democrats on Capitol Hill to discuss how to defend the Affordable Care Act from being upended by the unified Republican presidency and Congress. The Republican plan would "make America sick again," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference afterward.
Will the GOP Delay an Obamacare Repeal?
The newest Congressmembers are now being sworn in, leadership in the House and Senate has been elected, and now comes the countdown to what the GOP promised would be its 2017 priority: repealing Obamacare. But as politicians on both sides plan their strategies for the impending Affordable Care Act showdown, is it possible that Republicans may chicken out on their vow to repeal and replace?
Of course, the vote to repeal President Barack Obama's key health care legislation is an inevitable and likely immediate one. The question is, will it be the "tear it all down and start over from scratch" move that the Republicans have been promising their supporters. Considering the mass of new enrollees that signed up for coverage even as the future looked dim for the ACA, public groundswell may make conservative leaders in Congress tread more cautiously.
Not everyone is advocating for prudence, though. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is urging the party to go nuclear on the Act, saying partial measures would only make the whole health care situation worse. "What should we replace Obamacare with? Perhaps we should try freedom," Paul wrote in an op-ed, adding, "If Congress fails to vote on a replacement at the same time as repeal, the repealers risk assuming the blame for the continued unraveling of Obamacare. For mark my words, Obamacare will continue to unravel and wreak havoc for years to come."
The GOP as a whole may not be nearly as willing to side with Paul. Instead, they are considering a staggered repeal that would leave portions in place for as of yet undetermined amounts of time.
"Republicans are moving forward quickly with plans to repeal ObamaCare. They plan to vote on a budget resolution setting in motion a fast-track process to repeal much of the healthcare law in early January," reports The Hill. But while the vote will be fast, the effective date of when each part of the appeal would kick in is not yet clear - and there is no consensus anywhere on the horizon, the outlet notes.
In fact, according to Bloomberg News, some portions could take years to finally come to fruition, primarily to buffer lawmakers from voter blacklash in upcoming elections. "Republicans are debating how long to delay implementing the repeal," reports Bloomberg. "Aides involved in the deliberations said some parts of the law may be ended quickly, such as its regulations affecting insurer health plans and businesses. Other pieces may be maintained for up to three or four years, such as insurance subsidies and the Medicaid expansion. Some parts of the law may never be repealed, such as the provision letting people under age 26 remain on a parent's plan. House conservatives want a two-year fuse for the repeal. Republican leaders prefer at least three years, and there has been discussion of putting it off until after the 2020 elections, staffers said."
As usual, President-elect Donald Trump offers little clue as to his own hopes for the ACA repeal or replacement, instead offering his own take on policy making via social media.
Politico reports:
...Tuesday morning he turned to social media to remind his followers of why he thinks the controversial health care legislation must be done away with.
"People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn't work, and it is not affordable - 116% increases (Arizona). Bill Clinton called it 'CRAZY,'" Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning. He quickly followed that post with another, writing that "the Democrat Governor of Minnesota said 'The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is no longer affordable!' - And, it is lousy healthcare."
However, Trump administration talking heads were more cautious, suggesting that some portions of the ACA were in fact working, providing health insurance to many who were uninsured and that the new administration would focus on not leaving those newly insured in the lurch.
In the most likely scenario, the GOP will indeed immediately vote to "repeal" Obamacare. But that actual "repeal" may just be as much lip service as any of their alternative "replacement" plans have been.

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