GOP lawmakers gamble that setting bill in motion to strike Affordable Care Act will help break through intraparty disagreements
The domestic policy agenda of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) rests on the health-care maneuver paying off first. Photo: mark makela/Reuters
WASHINGTON—Republican leaders are betting that the only way for Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act is to set a bill in motion and gamble that fellow GOP lawmakers won’t dare to block it.
Party leaders are poised to act on the strategy as early as this week, after it has become obvious they can’t craft a proposal that will carry an easy majority in either chamber. Lawmakers return to Washington Monday after a week of raucous town halls in their districts that amplified pressure on Republicans to forge ahead with their health-care plans.
Republican leaders pursuing the “now or never” approach see it as their best chance to break through irreconcilable demands by Republican centrists and conservatives over issues ranging from tax credits to the future of Medicaid.
The new strategy means the health-care law could be overhauled in three precarious steps—reflecting the difficulties of concurrently repealing and replacing the law, as POTUS had sought.
Republicans can afford to lose no more than two GOP votes in the Senate and 22 in the House, assuming they get no support from Democrats. That means any GOP faction could torpedo the repeal effort by withholding its support—and members of each have threatened as much.
Advocates of the strategy hope that knife’s-edge math will be an asset rather than a liability. They are betting different groups of Republican lawmakers can be pacified with a handful of concessions, then will swallow hard and vote for a longstanding repeal pledge, first in the House, then in the Senate.
“You’re a Republican, you’ve been running to repeal Obamacare, they put a repeal bill in front of you… Are you going to be the Republican senator who prevents Obamacare repeal from being sent to a Republican president who is willing to sign it?” said Doug Badger, a longtime Republican leadership health policy adviser.