GOP: ACA re­peal back on agenda

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, White House restart ef­fort to gut Oba­macare fol­low­ing Fri­day vote fail­ure.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Robert Pear and Jeremy W. Peters ©2017 The New York Times

House Repub­li­can lead­ers and the White House, un­der ex­treme pres­sure from con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists, have restarted ne­go­ti­a­tions on leg­is­la­tion to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, with House lead­ers declar­ing that Democrats have been cel­e­brat­ing the law’s sur­vival pre­ma­turely.

Just days af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he was mov­ing on to other is­sues, se­nior White House of­fi­cials are now say­ing they have hope that they can still score the kind of big leg­isla­tive vic­tory that has so far eluded Trump. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence was dis­patched to Capi­tol Hill on Tuesday for lunchtime talks.

“We’re not go­ing to re­trench into our cor­ners or put up di­vid­ing lines,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said af­ter a meet­ing of House Repub­li­cans that was dom­i­nated by a dis­cus­sion of how to restart the health ne­go­ti­a­tions. “There’s too much at stake to get bogged down in all of that.”

The House Repub­li­can whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, said of Democrats, “Their cel­e­bra­tion is pre­ma­ture. We are closer to re­peal­ing Oba­macare than we ever have been be­fore.”

It is not clear what po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics might have changed since Fri­day, when a coali­tion of strict con­ser­va­tives and more mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans tor­pe­doed leg­is­la­tion to re­peal Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s signature do­mes­tic pro­gram. Ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Congress Bud­get Of­fice, the re­place­ment bill would leave 24 mil­lion more Amer­i­cans

with­out in­sur­ance af­ter a decade, a major worry for mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans. It would also leave in place reg­u­la­tions on the health in­sur­ance in­dus­try that con­ser­va­tives find anath­ema.

Ryan de­clined to say what might be in the next ver­sion of the Repub­li­cans’ re­peal bill, nor would he sketch any sched­ule for ac­tion. But he said Congress needs to act be­cause in­sur­ers are de­vel­op­ing the pre­mi­ums and ben­e­fit pack­ages for health plans they would of­fer in 2018, with re­view by fed­eral and state of­fi­cials be­gin­ning soon.

The new talks, which have been go­ing on qui­etly this week, in­volve Stephen Ban­non, the pres­i­dent’s chief strate­gist, and mem­bers of the two Repub­li­can fac­tions that helped sink the bill last week, the Free­dom Cau­cus and the more cen­trist Tuesday Group.

Any deal would re­quire over­com­ing sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences about how to re­work a law that cov­ers about one­fifth of the U.S. econ­omy, dif­fer­ences that were so sharp they led Trump and Ryan to pull the bill from con­sid­er­a­tion just as the House was sched­uled to vote Fri­day.

Still, Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress said they hoped that re­vis­it­ing the is­sue would lead this time to a so­lu­tion and a vote in the House.

“I think ev­ery­one wants to get to yes and sup­port Pres­i­dent Trump,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., a Free­dom Cau­cus mem­ber. “There is a pack­age in there that is a win-win.”

Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho, an­other Free­dom Cau­cus mem­ber, said he hoped the dis­cus­sions would yield a com­pro­mise that brings the party to­gether af­ter a di­vi­sive de­bate that re­vealed deep fis­sures.

“I think we will have a bet­ter, stronger prod­uct that will unify the con­fer­ence,” Labrador said.

Trump has sent mixed sig­nals in re­cent days, at times blam­ing the Free­dom Cau­cus, out­side groups and even, it ap­peared, Ryan. On Mon­day, for in­stance, he said in a late-night Twit­ter post that the Free­dom Cau­cus was able to “snatch de­feat from the jaws of vic­tory” over the health care re­peal. “Af­ter so many bad years they were ready for a win!”

But then he sug­gested that he could also cut a deal with Democrats, a move that would al­most cer­tainly make more con­ser­va­tive mem­bers of the House balk.

“Don’t worry,” he tweeted later Mon­day night, “we are in very good shape!”

Ryan said House Repub­li­cans are de­ter­mined to use the next ver­sion of the re­peal bill, like the first ver­sion, as a ve­hi­cle to cut off fed­eral funds for Planned Par­ent­hood clinics.

Asked if he saw any signs that mem­bers of the Free­dom Cau­cus might be will­ing to com­pro­mise, he said: “I don’t want us to be­come a fac­tion­al­ized ma­jor­ity. I want us to be­come a uni­fied ma­jor­ity, and that means we’re go­ing to sit down and talk things out un­til we get there, and that’s ex­actly what we’re do­ing.”

“We saw good over­tures from those mem­bers from dif­fer­ent parts of our con­fer­ence to get there be­cause we all share th­ese goals, and we’re just go­ing to have to fig­ure out how to get it done,” Ryan said.

Scalise said that “we’re go­ing to keep work­ing” be­cause “this is­sue isn’t go­ing away,” and he added: “Oba­macare con­tin­ues to fail the Amer­i­can peo­ple. You’re go­ing to con­tinue to see dou­ble-digit in­creases in pre­mi­ums be­cause Oba­macare doesn’t work.”

Democrats took for­mal steps to get in­volved in what they called im­prov­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia, the Demo­cratic leader, sent a let­ter to House Democrats call­ing for sug­ges­tions to make the health law work bet­ter.

“We can then dis­cuss th­ese sug­ges­tions in our cau­cus and be pre­pared at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble time to go for­ward,” she said.

DOUG MILLS / NEW YORK TIMES

House Speaker Paul Ryan talks at a news con­fer­ence Tuesday about re­newed ef­forts by the GOP to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, in the wake of a failed at­tempt Fri­day. House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., lis­tens to Ryan.

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