Conservatives Fight to Stop ‘Obamacare Lite’
The draft repeal of the Affordable Care Act is already so controversial — with Republicans — that it is being held in a “secure location.”
And even Republican senators are barred from seeing it by GOP leadership.
Locked in a room in the U.S. Capitol, where only members of the U.S. House of Representatives can see it — the bill sits, aflame in controversy.
Republicans have said for years they were on the same page on repealing and replacing the behemoth health care law, better known as Obamacare. Now, with complete GOP control of Congress and the White House, a path forward appears jeopardized by intra-party squabbling.
At least three Republican senators — enough to kill a bill — have said they won’t vote for a new GOP health bill that expands entitlements. And there are also rebellions in the House of Representatives, where any Republican plan to replace Obamacare is expected to originate.
Conservatives worry the replacement plan being readied by House Speaker Paul Ryan does not actually repeal Obamacare. Rather, they believe Republican elders are just tweaking the current health care system established by Democratic majorities in March 2010.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) mocked House Republicans Thursday morning for keeping the House version of the repeal of Obamacare under tighter wraps than the Ark of the Covenant.
“I have been told that the House Obamacare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location, & not available for me or the public to view,” Paul tweeted on Thursday morning.
Paul was blocked from entering a House room where he thought it was being kept.
Paul later accused House Republicans of plotting “Obamacare Lite,” a Republican version of Obamacare that may leave in place both subsidies and a coverage mandate.
“This is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now,” Paul tweeted. “What is the House leadership trying to hide? My guess is, they are trying to hide their ‘Obamacare Lite’ approach.”
Paul’s quest for the draft has been part of a recent push by conservatives to pressure their leaders — especially House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — to repeal Obamacare in the “right” way, a way that gets rid of the hated coverage mandate as well as the overall gargantuan bill.
The good parts of the bill, they argue, can be added back later.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been saying for days that Democrats and the media want the Obamacare repeal to fail so it becomes something of a Republican “Waterloo.” Cruz says that can be avoided if GOP lawmakers “honor our promise” and “don’t make it worse.”
Cruz wants repeal to begin with 2015 language, a popular idea with many congressional Republicans.
Republican leaders are also coming under fire from activist groups. Heritage Action, the political arm of The Heritage Foundation, said it will not settle for anything less than a conservative repeal bill.
“While congressional activity moves slowly behind closed doors in the Capitol, Americans and their elected officials remain in the dark over the creation of a new program that could cost as much as Obamacare,” said Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham. “They deserve full transparency, including legislative text and full budget scores, as this important debate plays out in real time.”
President Donald Trump has said repeatedly he wants some language to remain (or be added back into a new GOP health bill). For one, he wants coverage for pre-existing conditions to be kept. That is likely the most popular Obamacare item.
Trump also wants to keep a provision allowing adults 26 years of age and younger to be covered by their parents’ insurance.
One conservative critic of House efforts to repeal Obamacare says he wants to make sure people are covered. But he wants means-testing, to make sure sure taxpayers aren’t paying for insurance coverage for those who can pay on their own.
But U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said a key goal should be keeping federal spending from driving up health care costs.
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of driving health care costs down,” said Meadows, speaking on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Thursday morning. “Free competition always drives down the cost of health care.”
Meadows said an example of how federal spending drives up costs is college tuition. The federal government pumped lots of money into grants and student loans, and tuition costs went up.