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Ryan and McConnell agree: No long delay in passing an ObamaCare replacement
I don't know if the repeal-and-delay talk was just a trial balloon, or if it was never really under serious consideration. But there was never much enthusiasm - from the conservative base or from anyone else - for the idea of repealing ObamaCare quickly but then taking an extended period of time to come up with a replacement. And apparently both Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have gotten the message.
Here's what Ryan told The Hill earlier today:
“It is our goal to bring it all together concurrently,” Ryan told reporters after meeting with House Republicans behind closed doors.
“We’re going to use every tool at our disposal through legislation, through regulation, to bring replace concurrent along with repeal, so that we can save people from this mess.”
In the GOP conference meeting, Ryan told his colleagues he expects the House will press forward and vote Friday on a Senate-passed budget that will start the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That’s despite calls from Freedom Caucus members for more details about how the repeal and replacement process would unfold.
But Freedom Caucus lawmakers said they didn’t expect to band together and scuttle the budget vote.
“I think some members want more clarification, but I didn’t sense there was going to be organized [opposition],” one Freedom Caucus member told The Hill.
Ryan provided no details about what replacement elements would be included, calling it a “Senate question” about what Republicans can put in budget reconciliation.
The "Senate question" comment mainly means this: It's easier to repeal ObamaCare than it is to replace it because, if current filibuster rules remain in place, the Senate can bypass the filibuster and pass the repeal with a simple majority vote. The replacement bill will probably be subject to the filibuster, however, so you need 60 votes to cut off debate and get a vote on it. What I think Ryan and McConnell are hoping to do is find ways to build aspects of the replacement into the repeal bill, thus allowing at least the framework of the replacement to also pass with a simple majority.
Here's McConnell on Face the Nation echoing Ryan's determination to repeal and replace at the same time:
He's being characteristically coy about what "rapidly" means, but he's certainly not pushing the idea that Republicans can repeal ObamaCare right off the bat and then sit back and take their time coming up with a replacement.
There are some risks to this approach. Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal is concerned that if the GOP doesn't take its time, hold hearings and sell the new plan to the public, they'll end up with the same kinds of problems the Democrats had with ObamaCare - a poorly written bill that doesn't have the public's backing and wasn't even really understood before it was passed.
That's a real concern, but so is the prospect of a long, drawn-out process that threatens to dominate the news cycles throughout the year, and gives Democrats and the media the opportunity to scare the public with absurd horror stories about what will happen when the government doesn't run health care. The Trump Administration and the new GOP Congress have a lot of problems to solve on behalf of this nation, and they can't afford to get bogged down with health care and only health care for their entire first year. That's what repeal-and-delay would do. They would be constantly defending themselves against charges that proposed changes would make everyone sick or dead, as well as charges that ObamaCare was working great and the effort to replace it was nothing more than partisan politics in the first place.
They cannot afford to spend all of 2017 grappling with that nonsense.
That doesn't change the fact that the replacement law has make sense, has to make health care better and not worse, and can't be written and passed in a slipshod manner. And if they only write something because it can pass quickly and not because it's really the best approach available, they won't really solve anything and they'll only keep this alive as a problem for them and everyone else going forward.
So I realize what I'm advocating here is a tough challenge: A quickly written and quickly passed bill that transforms the health care system for the better and can pass both the House and the Senate. Obama left the GOP with this problem and the path to solving it is strewn with political landmines. But that's why you run for office, right? Dont' want problems like that? Let someone else have the job.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!