Republicans tap governors in bid to ax Obamacare
Republicans are trying to rope the country’s governors into their Obamacare repeal effort, soliciting feedback from the state executives last week as they plot their strategy for early next year.
While they’ve said dismantling the Affordable Care Act is their top priority in the new year, congressional Republicans are still sketching out what comes next, and the governors, who have grappled with the effects of Obamacare and the uninsured up close, could provide a lifeline for the GOP.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, chairman of two key committees, asked the governors to suggest ways to lower costs and expand choices for consumers without resorting to the heavy-handed mandates President Obama used.
“Working as a team, with your help and creative ideas, we can achieve our mutual goal of putting patients first,” they wrote in a letter asking state officials to weigh in by Jan. 6.
With health care looming next year, Republicans are trying to clear the decks on Capitol Hill this week.
That means passing a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded into the new year, giving President-elect Donald Trump a say in those decisions. Congressional leaders were debating whether the “continuing resolution” on government funding will last through March, as initially planned, or extend deeper into the spring to give GOP leaders more breathing room.
House and Senate negotiators also finalized a water resources bill last Monday that includes $170 million for Flint, Michigan, and other communities reeling from lead-tainted water — a top priority for Democrats.
A massive medical-innovation bill cleared a major test vote in the Senate, 85-13, despite vocal opposition from progressives such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent.
The $6.3 billion bill dubbed “21st Century Cures” fast-tracks regulatory approval of groundbreaking drugs, ushers in bipartisan mental health reforms and provides $1 billion to tackle America’s prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic. It injects nearly $5 billion into the National Institutes of Health, including $1.8 billion for the cancer “moonshot” project led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who presided over the vote.
Opponents say the bill does nothing for Americans struggling with high prescription costs.
But the White House supports the legislation, which passed the House 392-26 last week, and it is poised for final approval in the Senate later this week.
Beyond the holidays, GOP leaders say they will kick off the new Congress in January by writing a budget that sets in motion fast-track rules that allow Republicans to gut Obamacare on a majority-line vote in the Senate, avoiding a Democratic filibuster and clearing the way for Mr. Trump’s signature at the White House.
Settling on a replacement, however, will be much harder. It will take 60 votes in the Senate, and the GOP can only count on, at most, its own 52 members.
Republicans say they’re casting a wide net to build consensus and avoid a repeat of 2010, when Mr. Obama relied on Democratic majorities to muscle his health reforms through Congress without a single GOP vote.