Repub­li­cans tap gov­er­nors in bid to ax Oba­macare

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY TOM HOWELL JR.

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.

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