President Donald Trump and conservative senators are embracing a new tactic in their quest to undo the damage of Obamacare: Repeal it now, then replace it later.
If the approach sounds familiar, it’s what conservatives had planned to do in January until Trump, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and other Republicans insisted on a replacement at the same time.
Today, however, the repeal-now, replace-later idea is gaining momentum again.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., is urging lawmakers and Trump to consider the alternate path after Senate Republicans failed to reach agreement on their version of a health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, before the July 4 recess.
“The Senate will next be in legislative session on Monday, July 10,” Sasse wrote Friday in a letter to Trump. “If we don’t get to agreement on a combined, comprehensive Obamacare repeal and replace plan by that day, I humbly suggest that you publicly call on the Congress to do two things.”
First, the Nebraska senator said, his plan would be to “immediately repeal as much of Obamacare as is possible under congressional budget reconciliation rules.”
Second, Sasse said, the Senate should “cancel the scheduled August state work period” and instead “spend that month working through regular order, six days per week, writing a health reform package with a vote to be scheduled on Labor Day.”
(am actually proposing 18 hours per day of hearings, 6 days per week, for all of August) https://t.co/Pf9JJzidht
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) June 30, 2017
Other lawmakers, including Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., have advocated canceling the August recess to work on priorities such as repealing and replacing Obamacare.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) June 29, 2017
In a recent op-ed for The Daily Signal, Perdue wrote
There isn’t time to deal with the issues that demand immediate attention. The only appropriate response is to cancel, or heavily truncate, the annual August recess that turns the United States Capitol into a ghost town.
Shortly after Sasse outlined his idea, Trump tweeted his support:
If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
Meadows, the House Freedom Caucus chairman, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that he would support a move to repeal Obamacare first, and then replace it:
At the very beginning of this process, many of my colleagues and I advocated doing repeal and replace of Obamacare separately on the same timeline so that we can both keep our promise of full repeal to the voters while having an open and honest debate about a better system. I still believe it would be an effective approach. Whether we proceed in this direction or another, I remain committed to that promise: repealing Obamacare and replacing it with market-driven principles that lower premiums for American families.
Trump and Sasse’s suggestions followed the announcement Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that the Senate would delay its vote on the health care bill until after the July 4 break.
“We’re going to continue the discussions within our conference on the differences that we have that we’re continuing to try to litigate,” McConnell said. “Consequently, we will not be on the bill this week, but we’re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place.”
Paul, among Trump’s competitors for the GOP nomination for president in 2016, also indicated he was open to the repeal-first approach.
I have spoken to @realDonaldTrump & Senate leadership about this and agree. Let's keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 30, 2017
Earlier in the year, Republicans opted for a repeal-and-replace strategy in part because of Trump and Paul’s support for simultaneous action.
We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2016
I just spoke to @realDonaldTrump and he fully supports my plan to replace Obamacare the same day we repeal it. The time to act is now.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 7, 2017
Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America, told The Daily Signal in an email that any health care legislation going forward “needs to address Obamacare’s burdensome rules and regulations that are driving up costs for hardworking Americans.”
Republicans will need at least 51 votes to pass a health care bill under a procedure known as budget reconciliation, with Vice President Mike Pence able to break a tie if two Republicans defect.
More centrist Republicans such as Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have not been supportive of the Senate’s current bill. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the bill would need a “fundamental overhaul” to gain her vote.
Meanwhile, conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have advocated changes that would give consumers the freedom to choose among more affordable health insurance plans that don’t adhere to the standards imposed by Obamacare, as long as insurers still provide plans that do.