Not sold on GOP leadership’s touted “repeal and replace” bill, congressional conservatives have a simple plan to handle Obamacare: Do what they promised voters and pass the same legislation they did 14 months ago.
Outside the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., (A, 93%) and Mike Lee, R-Utah (A, 100%) and members of the House Freedom Caucus announced bills in both chambers identical to the ones passed by Congress in December 2015.
The proposed conservative plan introduced at the press conference stands in contrast to leadership’s legislative package by fully repealing the 2009 health care law.
“[Republicans] have to admit that we are divided on replacement,” said Sen. Paul, who added that the best way to “get past this impasse” is to repeal the 2009 law and then deliberate the merits of the various replacement plans later.
“Our bill has always been repeal in one piece of legislation and replace with another,” said Sen. Paul, who is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.
“There’s one thing that has united Republicans in 2010 when we won the House, in 2014 when we won the Senate, and in 2016 when we won the White House. This doesn’t divide Republicans,” said Paul. “This brings us together. And that is complete repeal — a clean repeal.”
Former Freedom Caucus Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio (A, 96%) announced that he would be introducing sister legislation in the House alongside Paul’s.
The conservative plan is closer to what GOP candidates promised voters in past election cycles, Rep. Jordan said, which is a “market-centered, patient-centered, doctor-centered plan” that will bring down costs through competition and innovation.
“We put on President Obama’s desk a bill that repealed Obamacare, got rid of every single tax, got rid of the mandates,” Jim Jordan said of the 2015 bill. “And now the first thing that Republicans are bringing forward is a piece of legislation that we’re going to put on a Republican president’s desk” that keeps Medicaid expansion and some tax increases.
“That is not what we told the American people we were going to do,” said Rep. Jordan.
“This is a step in the wrong direction” and a “missed opportunity,” said Sen. Mike Lee, who also criticized the highly secretive process by which Republican leadership crafted its “American Healthcare Act.”
“We’ve seen what happens when Congress decides to put forward a plan negotiated behind closed doors … It’s usually not a good product,” said Lee.
The Utah senator went on to stress the importance of an “iterative process” where the merits can be deliberated in the open air.
One area where conservatives and the White House agree is that the current leadership plan is merely a starting point, and one that will have to be debated in committee and on the floor, according to statements made at the press conference and by DHS Secretary Tom Price at the White House hours before.
Freedom Caucus member Mark Sanford, R-S.C. (A, 90%) referred to President Trump’s touted negotiating skills as a critical component going forward.
“It’s about asking this simple question: ‘Do we need to lower the bar in what we believe as conservatives, simply because a Republican is now in the White House?’” Sanford said.
The drive behind the conservative plan is “simply about going back to things that have long worked on the conservative side and things republicans have espoused in the last 14 months,” he added.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas (A, 98%) also called the leadership bill a starting point and stressed the importance of amendments to the process and bill.
“There better not be a rule that prevents amendments that would fix this badly flawed bill. That would be a major problem,” said Rep. Gohmert. But, he added, “I think amidst the horse excrement, we can find a pony around here somewhere.”