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Exclusive — Sen. Tom Cotton: Paul Ryan’s Healthcare Bill Does Not Deliver on GOP, President Trump’s Promise to Repeal, Replace Obamacare

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a leading GOP senator, is warning his friend House Speaker Paul Ryan to “take a pause” and slow down when it comes to healthcare reform.

Cotton told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview when asked what he would say to Ryan were he speaking directly to the embattled Speaker:

Take a pause, lower the stakes, we don’t need to meet arbitrary legislative deadlines. We need to keep our promise to make healthcare more affordable, more accessible and hassle-free for all Americans. The legislation they’ve introduced can be a starting point but it needs major changes. Those changes can be perused and analyzed and tested at hearings. Then we can move forward with a more deliberative fashion in committee to propose amendments and cast votes so we’re not rushing through in the dark of night 36 hours after the bill is introduced. Then the Senate can take the same process and we can work out what differences we might have. That, ultimately, would yield the right result even if it takes a little bit longer. Our healthcare system has had many problems for many years, well before Obamacare—and Obamacare has made them worse—what we need to do is not focus on arbitrary deadlines but focus on finally solving these problems.

Ryan is rushing a bill—the American Health Care Act, or Obamacare 2.0, or Obamacare Lite, or Ryancare as it has become known—through the House of Representatives right now. But Cotton, a U.S. Senator, tells Breitbart News in this exclusive phone interview on Thursday afternoon that Ryan should back off. Cotton told Breitbart News that this plan by Ryan does not follow through on President Trump’s and other Republicans’ plans to repeal Obamacare, then replace it with a healthcare system that works better for all Americans.

Cotton told Breitbart News:

We need to get healthcare reform right. We don’t need to get it fast. The House bill as drafted will not deliver on the main promises of President Trump and congressional Republicans, which is making healthcare affordable, keeping it accessible and reducing the level of stress and hassle in the lives of Americans. The process by which the House is considering this legislation and the breakneck pace at which they’re operating is not going to fix this. You can’t introduce major legislation on a Monday night and vote on it Wednesday morning without even having time to process it. We’re not having any hearings to lay a fact-based foundation of knowledge to understand the very thorny questions that healthcare reform poses. It’s much better that we take a pause and do so to get healthcare reform right than to get it right.

The bill as introduced does not repeal Obamacare as proponents falsely claim—it only amends it—and it keeps Obamacare’s Cadillac Tax and individual mandate. With the individual mandate, for people who choose not to buy insurance, the bill merely shifts the penalty from Obamacare’s government-collected tax to a fee collected by insurance companies. There are many more issues with the bill, but the individual mandate question is one that Cotton is particularly concerned about. He went on to say:

This is one small instance of a provision I don’t think we understand in this bill. It creates a kind of tax credit to helps low income Americans afford their healthcare and it pays it to the insurance companies not to taxpayers—not to the Americans who need it to buy health insurance. I simply don’t understand why we would take that approach. That’s one of the problems with Obamacare—including too many giveaways to insurance companies.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), in his own exclusive interview with Breitbart News a day earlier, is calling for Trump to support the 2015 bill in which both chambers of Congress voted successfully to repeal Obamacare—and then do a separate replacement bill the same day. Cotton said he is open to Paul’s ideas, and other ideas on this front, but wants everyone to think about this and slow down and move off the Ryan bill.

Cotton said when asked if he backs Sen. Paul’s idea for Obamacare repeal and replacement:

I’m open to lots of legislative approaches except for ramming through major legislation in 36 hours in the dark of night. Paul’s idea for Obamacare repeal and replacement. “written spending bill in late December. Introduce it on Monday, vote on it on Wednesday morning and everyone goes home for Christmas—and hey, who cares because it’s all going to expire in nine months anyway. We ought not do that on spending bills, but we surely ought not do it on healthcare reforms. As we all said on Obamacare, we are remaking one sixth of the nation’s economy and something that affects every single American in a personal and intimate fashion.

Cotton said he has spoken with President Trump in “broad contours” about healthcare and looks forward to future conversations with him about it.

“We’ve only spoken in broad contours about healthcare, and I’ve expressed to him it’s a complicated topic and we have to take our time and get it right—not fast,” Cotton said.

With Cotton, Paul, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) out publicly against the Ryan bill as is—and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Susan Collins (R-ME) saying it is dead on arrival in the Senate—it has no chance to pass the U.S. Senate. There is also significant opposition to the bill inside the GOP conference in the House, with the House Freedom Caucus and many more members outside the Freedom Caucus opposed to it in the House. Cotton said the bill will likely not, despite what Ryan says over and over, pass the House of Representatives. Cotton said:

I would encourage my old friends in the House to slow down and fix the many problems in this bill before they vote on it. If they do that, it can pass and it can pass with a big majority. And I think that’d be good for the American people. But if they move forward with the legislation that was introduced Monday, I have real doubts about whether it can pass the House of Representatives and there’s no need for that to happen because we are relatively close to the right kind of reform that’s better for the American people. It’s better to spend a few weeks getting that right than moving it fast.

If somehow politicians in Washington were able to navigate the significant GOP opposition to this bill and force it through to passage, Cotton added, there is likely to be significant political backlash against anyone who supports it and anyone who supports this rushed Obamacare-like process.

“I’m more concerned about the implications for the Arkansans I represent,” Cotton said. “Arkansans are either losing their health insurance or continuing to have to pay higher and higher premiums. But you can be sure, if that’s the result, that it will be politically hazardous to the health of people who supported this process and those who supported a bill that produces this result. I’m not trying to stop the repeal of Obamacare and healthcare reform. I’m trying to fix it. I’m trying to help President Trump achieve the goals on which he and all of us campaigned. Right now, the House bill—as drafted—I don’t think does that.”


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