Capitol Hill conservatives Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah), House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R.-N.C.), and Meadows’ HFC predecessor Rep. James Jordan (R.-Ohio) at a Heritage Foundation-sponsored event told reporters Congress should repeal the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act–immediately.
At a minimum, Congress should follow through with the PPACA, or Obamacare repeal, that was passed through the budget reconciliation process in the last Congress and vetoed by President Barack Obama, Lee said.
“We still have a Congress that is controlled by the Republican Party, and we also have a White House, we have a Republican president, so we need to pass that,” Lee said. “If we can get something more aggressive than that? Then, great. But it certainly should not be anything less aggressive than what we were able to pass in 2015.”
Lee said he was not taken in by calls to delay the repeal, which was a promise to the American people.
Instead of waiting for Congress to build a new Obamacare before repealing Obamacare, the first step is to lock down repeal, he said.
It is important that the repeal bill pass in the next three or four months because there are so many items that Congress must deal with this year, Lee said.
“Time is of the essence–I don’t think we could allow it to go beyond that window–the repeal–I think the American people are suffering,” he said.
“In the 39 states, where there are federally-run exchanges, premiums saw spikes in a range of 25 percent on average,” he said.
“In my state, it was 30 percent, just in 2017, which is one of the reasons we got to get movement,” he said. “All three of us would like it to go faster than it has been.”
Jordan said Congress has an obligation to act because Obamacare was a betrayal of trust.
“Here’s the context, remember the American people were lied to about this law,” Jordan said.
“Everything they were told about this law turned out to be false,” he said. “I call it the Nine Lies: Like your doctor? Keep your doctor. Like your plan? Keep your plan. Premiums will decline an average of $2,500. The website will work. The website is secure. Emergency room visits will decline–they haven’t. They went up, and they said these 23 co-ops they created were going to be wonderful–18 of them already went bankrupt.”
The Ohio congressman said after Americans were lied to and had struggled with it for the last seven years, “It has been a complete disaster–for that reason alone, you want to repeal it as quickly as possible.”
In a typical fiscal year, Jordan said there are one or two big spending moments, but now there are seven, including the federal budget extended from December with a continuing resolution. He said:
We have the repeal of Obamacare and the reconciliation; then you have the CR that comes due April 28, likely to be supplemental in that CR, likely to break the sequester on that CR, then you have a budget. We don’t know what the baseline is, but we are being told it is going to be difficult to project how we are going to balance within a reasonable time, which all of us conservatives, we think is critical–you will have reconciliation instructions in that budget reconciliation to deal with the tax reform issue, then you have the 12 appropriation bills.
Jordan said each of these must-pass bills present the opportunity to tack on the repeal of Obamacare, including one of the bills that are bound to have a large infrastructure bill attached to it.
Another chance is the debt ceiling, which was suspended in a deal between Obama and the GOP leadership, but that suspension expires in March, he said.
“Compared to a normal year? That is a lot–that is a lot,” he said.
Meadows said the quicker Congress could take definitive action on repeal, the better it is for constituents back home.
Another reason to move quickly is that both chambers of Congress voted to use the fiscal year 2017 budget reconciliation process to repeal Obamacare, as they did in 2015, he said. But Congress cannot begin work on the 2018 budget if the 2017 budget is still incomplete.
The repeal votes in January did not produce a bill for President Donald Trump to sign. Rather, they began a process where House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over parts of Obamacare produce their re-working of Obama’s landmark health care reform legislation. Those committees send those bills to the floor so that each chamber has a bill. If the bills are different, the differences are resolved at a conference, which produces one conference bill that is put up for an up-or-down vote in both the House and the Senate.
This is a complicated process, further complicated by the nature of the budget reconciliation process.
Republicans control both the House and the Senate, but their 51-to-48 majority is not enough to end debate and force a vote, which requires 60 votes. A budget bill does not require 60 votes, but it is limited to financial or budgetary measures. Thus, the Obamacare repeal that passed in January and is in the middle of being finished can only gut the taxes, fees, and fines in the PPACA, leaving the rules and regulations in place. The assumption is that at least eight Senate Democrats would work with Senate Republicans to refashion federal health care policy after its financial underpinnings are gone.
As a matter of tactics, Obama was content to ignore ultimatums and call bluffs, confident that Republicans would take the hit when there was a government shut down or the airports closed, or there was no money left to respond to a natural disaster.
The question now is whether working with the Trump White House is more productive than confronting the Obama White House.
Meadows said the American people are not interested in parliamentary and budgetary maneuvers in Washington.
But,they do want Congress and the president to start getting things done, he said.
“The crisis that we have is not necessarily those who can’t pay. It’s because healthcare costs have become so expensive that people are having to make a choice between their mortgage payment and their insurance payment–and I think that is deplorable,” he said.