Several Republican lawmakers are now backing away from the plan to repeal Obamacare immediately while kicking replacement legislation down the line a few years. Experts warn that such a strategy could accelerate Obamacare’s death spiral and put the blame for the failing marketplace on the GOP. Eager to avoid this political catastrophe, Republicans are now reconsidering the strategy.
In an interview this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that a replacement bill would “very quickly” follow the repeal vote.
That’s a change from the predominant talk last week, which suggested that Republicans might not come up with a replacement package until as late as 2019. It also moves McConnell closer to Donald Trump’s line of thinking, which was to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously.
In an interview with NBC, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said he, too, thought it was “unwise” to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement law ready to go.
“I believe it is a fair statement to say that there is a diverse cross-section of the House Republican Conference who feel, as I did, that replacement should occur simultaneously of a repeal,” Dent said.
Two Republican senators spoke out against the delay plan on Friday in separate interviews. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said, “I don’t think we can just repeal Obamacare and say we’re going to get the answer two years from now.”
And Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters that Republicans should heed the president-elect’s warnings.
“I think the president-elect’s position was the right position, and again, if you look at some of his quotes recently, he continues to offer caution as it relates to this, that in fact in the campaign he said repeal and replace should take place simultaneously. That to me is the prudent course of action,” said Sen. Corker.
Some Republicans favor the repeal/delay strategy because it lets them give voters some action. Using some budget tricks, they can defund the law without any help from Democrats. If they want to pass a replacement healthcare law, though, they’ll need help from at least a few Democrat senators. With the way things are now, it’s not clear who that would be.
On the other hand, if they repeal Obamacare and the market collapses next year, it will look like they caused it to happen. Democrats get to pin the blame on Republicans, even if the healthcare market was already headed for certain doom.
Either way, they need to get out in front of this before they get run over by negative media coverage.