President-elect Donald Trump wants Congress to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act “probably sometime next week,” and replace the law “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter,” he told the New York Times on Tuesday. But Republicans in the Senate are not on the same page when it comes to the timing for a replacement plan.
Congressional Republicans have set up a multi-step process to repeal the law, starting with a budget resolution which the Senate is set to vote on by Thursday morning. The House expects to follow suit and vote on the resolution by the end of the week. The budget resolution doesn’t actually repeal the health care law, but instructs four congressional committees to draft reconciliation legislation that would allow the Senate to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Currently, the resolution instructs the committees to complete that work by Jan. 27, but a group of senators hopes to push that date back to March 3. That’s one of several amendments the Senate will consider in a “vote-a-rama” set for Wednesday.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters that the law “could” be repealed by next week, adding, “But I don’t know that it will.” Replacing the law within weeks would be fast, though possible, he said.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, cast doubt on whether Trump’s proposed timeline was realistic.
“It’s difficult for us to sit here and have a serious conversation about repealing and replacing next week,” he told reporters. “It’s a challenging situation.”
Republicans have not coalesced around one replacement plan. While House Republicans have put forth their “Better Way” agenda, the outline leaves out specific details that would be required by legislation, and GOP senators have not agreed on a plan.
They have also been split on whether to repeal and replace the law simultaneously. GOP leaders initially said they would repeal the law and leave a multi-year transition, during which they would replace it. But House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday morning that the goal would be to repeal and replace the law concurrently.
McConnell told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that repeal was the first step toward replacing the ACA.
“We’re working on what comes next,” he said. “We’re going to be involved with the administration, the House and the Senate, in crafting a package that we all agree on, and will provide a smooth transition from the disaster we have now and what comes next.”
Some lawmakers hope to include some aspects of a replacement in a reconciliation bill repealing the law, said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership, though he didn’t elaborate on what such provisions could be. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), another member of GOP leadership, echoed that idea.
“What he’s saying, I think, is consistent with what we’re hearing the House say and our members are obviously interested in getting as much of replace done as soon as possible,” Thune said Tuesday.
Republicans have suggested they will need to work on their plans with Trump’s pick for HHS Secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), once he’s in office.
“There’s some concern that having Tom Price sworn in and over at HHS for a period of time to help think it through would be an important factor,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters Tuesday.