Republican senators on Sunday mulled over the possibility of first repealing and then replacing ObamaCare, an idea that the GOP originally rejected but seems to be warming to reluctantly.
President Trump last week floated the idea. He tweeted that Republicans should repeal and then replace ObamaCare at a later date if they are not able to come to a consensus on their bill.
As the Senate majority leadership struggles to obtain enough support to pass healthcare legislation, some senators on Sunday argued it might streamline the process to split the bill into two.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has been a vocal critic of the Senate GOP’s healthcare bill — largely because he does not believe it’s a full repeal of former President Obama’s signature healthcare law — suggested Sunday the ObamaCare repeal and replace bills be separated.
“Let’s do clean repeal like we’ve promised,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“You can have a simultaneous bill or a concurrent bill that they can call replace,” he continued.
Paul said he wants repeal to work.
“And the way you do it is you separate it into two bills and you do it concurrently,” he said.
Paul said right now, Senate leadership is not doing that.
Ten Republican senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday calling for him to cancel, or at least curtail, the August congressional recess. But Paul said, “I’d rather get it done even before [August].”
Paul also said he doesn’t think the Senate is “getting anywhere with the bill we have.” He called the bill a “kitchen sink” trying to do everything and said the bill is bloated “like a Christmas tree full of billion-dollar ornaments.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Sunday also appeared open to pursuing a plan to repeal and then replace the former president’s signature healthcare legislation.
Similar to Paul’s “kitchen sink” criticism, he warned that “when you lump too many things into one piece of legislation, you doom its likelihood of success.”
Lee said the government needs to “re-inject free market forces in this environment.”
“If we can’t get this done … what we ought to do is get back to what I’ve been suggesting for the last six months which is to push full repeal and then embark on an iterative step-by-step process to decide what comes next,” he said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
Lee argued that it would be “easier” to “put a delayed implementation” into an ObamaCare repeal bill and “undertake a step-by-step process of designing what comes next” later.
His comments were echoed by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who first proposed a repeal of ObamaCare with a delayed implementation date. The proposal seems to be garnering support from his colleagues.
“It needs to be a good replace,” Sasse told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sasse said if the Senate does push through a clean repeal, lawmakers should remain in Washington, D.C. in August to work on repeal plans in “full public view.”
“I’d like to say let’s do the repeal and then let’s try to get 60 out of 100 senators,” Sasse added.
Sasse made similar comments last week during an interview on Fox News, noting he is urging the president to separate the process if progress isn’t made by July 10.
“If we don’t get this resolved by the Monday of next week, July 10, if there isn’t a combined repeal-and-replace plan, I’m writing a letter to the president this morning urging him to call on us to separate them,” he told Fox News.
The White House is open to splitting the bills.
“If the replacement part is too difficult for Republicans to come together, then lets go back and take care of the first step and repeal,” White House Director for Legislative Affairs Marc Short said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“That’s an option, and then at that point, if you’ve repealed it, you can come back with a replacement effort that could be more bipartisan,” he said.
During the interview though, Short expressed confidence the healthcare bill would get a vote in the Senate soon.
“We’re getting close,” he said.
“We believe that our package will help to lower premium costs, it’ll help provide better quality care for patients,” he said.
Staying on the White House message, he added that the new healthcare bill will return the relationship between patients and doctors without the government getting in between.
“We hope that we come back the week after recess, we’ll have a vote,” he said.
The comments come after Senate Republicans last week decided to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation after it became clear it lacked the votes for passage.
McConnell said last week the Senate will continue to pursue a joint repeal and replace of ObamaCare, despite Trump’s tweet regarding a clean repeal followed by a later replacement.
“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump tweeted Friday, a course of action that moderate Republicans rejected earlier this year.
McConnell said he has no plans to abandon the current bill being considered by Senate Republicans, the Associated Press reported last week.
“We are going to stick with that path,” McConnell said. “Failure has to be possible or you can’t have success.”
Others have also expressed reservations about repealing and then replacing ObamaCare, as some lawmakers push for Republicans to work with Democrats to produce a bipartisan healthcare bill.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) spoke out against the proposal of repealing ObamaCare without having a replacement plan in a place.
“I don’t know what that means,” Kasich told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week.”
“You can’t get rid of this, you can’t leave people without what they need,” the governor continued. Governors, including Kasich, have been some of the harshest critics of the impact repealing ObamaCare would have on their states.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sunday urged Trump to work withDemocrats who “are willing to meet in the middle.” He said Trump is the president of all of America, whether or not people supported him during his presidential campaign.
“Look at some of us, work with us Democrats who are willing to meet you in the middle,” Manchin said. “Who have always been willing to meet you in the middle.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) also said he wants the healthcare bill to be negotiated with both parties.
“I wish we weren’t doing it one party. But that said, if you can lower premiums, that is common ground,” Cassidy said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
McConnell has a steep hill to climb to get the Senate’s version of the ObamaCare repeal passed.
Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the upper chamber and several GOP senators have already announced their opposition to the bill in its current form. No Democrat supports the current healthcare legislation, and Republicans don’t yet have enough to support to pass it by themselves.
Still, Senate leadership might not be as willing as some in the rank-and-file and the White House to consider new tactics on the legislation.
We’re “trying to figure out how to twist the dials to get to 50 to replace this with something better,” McConnell told the AP. “It’s not easy making America great again, is it.”