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McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Up First in New Year

A first step to repealing the Affordable Care Act “will be the first item up in the new year” for the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

When we come back Jan. 3, we’ll be moving to the Obamacare replacement resolution,” McConnell said at a press conference.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership who has led Republican messaging on Obamacare, told reporters that the Budget Committee is already working on a fiscal 2017 budget resolution so it is ready for Jan. 3. That legislation is expected to become the vehicle for a reconciliation package that repeals Obamacare.

“It’s a two-stage process,” Barrasso explained. “The first is a resolution. It goes to the House. Then you have a committee, a conference committee, that then does what reconciliation is all about.”

The package is expected to be similar to one the Republican-led Congress passed last year, but was vetoed by President Barack Obama in January. The package passed by a Republican Congress delayed a repeal from taking effect for two years. In the next attempt there could be a two-or-three-year transition, Barrasso said.

Some parts of the law may be repealed by executive action or through regulatory steps, he added, noting that Republican senators spoke about some of the components with Vice President-elect Mike Pence Tuesday during a conference lunch meeting. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of Health and Human Services, will also be able to repeal some aspects of the law through regulations, he said.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the replacement plan from Republicans will focus on giving more regulatory power to states, increasing competition and offering more flexibility for small businesses.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Republicans will be revisiting many different ideas that were floated when Obamacare was drafted.

“There’s also going to be an important discussion about all the alternatives that were there in 2009 and 2010 that the administration, and particularly the president, constantly said, ‘Well, there were no other ideas.’ There were lots of other ideas,” Blunt said. “This gives us a chance to revisit those ideas.”