A lot of Republicans hate the Republican plan to replace Obamacare
Conservatives in Congress, the media, and well-funded advocacy groups attacked the Obamacare replacement bill unveiled by House Republicans and President Trump late Monday night. And such immediate blowback from within Trump’s own party imperils his chances of replacing the law in the early months of his presidency.
Trump tweeted his support Tuesday morning for “our wonderful new Healthcare Bill” while noting that it was open for review and negotiation.
Our wonderful new Healthcare Bill is now out for review and negotiation. ObamaCare is a complete and total disaster – is imploding fast!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
House Speaker Paul Ryan also boasted about the bill on Twitter.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 7, 2017
But such cheerleading belies the dissent within the GOP. Because no Democrats are expected to vote to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, Republicans can’t afford many defections if they’re going to pass the new bill. After six years of near-constant attacks on the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are stumbling in their initial attempts to coalesce around a single alternative.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky called the plan “Obamacare Lite” and said the Republican Congress “should be stopping mandates, taxes, and entitlements, not keeping them.” Several House Republicans echoed Paul’s opposition and attacked the bill as creating another entitlement that would expand government. The bill would provide refundable tax credits to help people pay for health insurance and would keep many of the regulations on the insurance industry that Obamacare put in place.
“I think there’s not the votes there to pass refundable tax credits,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, told Bloomberg News. Meadows also said that Trump’s stance on refundable tax credits would not change his own position.
Several conservative advocacy groups also attacked the bill. Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, released a statement from its CEO, Michael A. Needham, that essentially called on House Republicans to start over. “Rather than accept the flawed premises of Obamacare,” Needham said, “congressional Republicans should fully repeal the failed law and begin a genuine effort to deliver on longstanding campaign promises that create a free-market healthcare system that empowers patients and doctors.”
Opposition was voiced by the Club for Growth and Freedomworks, groups funded by Charles and David Koch. And Peter Suderman at the libertarian magazine “Reason” wrote Monday night that “it’s not clear what problem this particular bill would actually solve.”
Such infighting may be only the beginning as Republicans attempt to navigate healthcare reform in both houses of Congress. It took the Obama administration more than a year to pass its healthcare bill after Obama launched the effort in March of 2009.
Republicans are arguably further ahead since they already have a draft of the bill, but such internal opposition may force them back to Square One. If House Republicans concede too much to members of the Freedom Caucus, they risk alienating moderate Republicans in the Senate, where the GOP will have a voting margin of just three votes.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, known as a moderate Republican, told the New York Times Monday that “once low-income people are receiving good healthcare for the first time, it becomes very difficult for a member of Congress to take that assistance away from them.”
“To deprive them of that healthcare,” she said, “is something that now makes a lot of people in my party uncomfortable.”