Republican-led Senate takes first step to repeal 'Obamacare'

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2017 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-led Senate is poised to take a step forward on dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law despite anxiety among some GOP senators that they still haven’t come up with an alternative. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

WASHINGTON —

The Senate early Thursday passed a measure to take the first step forward on dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law, responding to pressure to move quickly even as Republicans and President-elect Trump grapple with what the replace it with.

The nearly party-line 51-48 vote came on a nonbinding Republican-backed budget measure that eases the way for action on subsequent repeal legislation as soon as next month.

“We must act quickly to bring relief to the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The House is slated to vote on the measure on Friday, though some Republicans there have misgivings about setting the repeal effort in motion without a better idea of the replacement plan.

Trump oozed confidence at a news conference on Tuesday, promising his incoming administration would soon reveal a plan to both repeal so-called Obamacare and replace it with legislation to “get health care taken care of in this country.”

“We’re going to do repeal and replace, very complicated stuff,” Trump told reporters, adding that both elements would pass virtually at the same time. That promise, however, will be almost impossible to achieve in the complicated web of Congress, where GOP leaders must navigate complex Senate rules, united Democratic opposition and substantive policy disagreements among Republicans.

Passage of Thursday’s measure would permit follow-up legislation to escape the threat of a filibuster by Senate Democrats. Republicans are not close to agreement among themselves on what any “Obamacare” replacement would look like, however.

Republicans plan to get legislation voiding Obama’s law and replacing parts of it to Trump by the end of February, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Wednesday on “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” a conservative radio program. Other Republicans have said they expect the process to take longer.

The 2010 law extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, prevented insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and steered billions of dollars to states for the Medicaid health program for the poor. Republicans fought the effort tooth and nail and voter opposition to Obamacare helped carry the party to impressive wins in 2010, 2014, and last year.

Thursday’s Senate procedural vote will set up special budget rules that will allow the repeal vote to take place with a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, instead of the 60 votes required to move most legislation.

That means Republicans, who control 52 seats, can push through repeal legislation without Democratic cooperation. They’re also discussing whether there are some elements of a replacement bill that could get through at the same time with a simple majority. But for many elements of a new health care law, Republicans are likely to need 60 votes and Democratic support, and at this point the two parties aren’t even talking.

Increasing numbers of Republicans have expressed anxiety over obliterating the law without a replacement to show voters.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she wants to at least see “a detailed framework” of a GOP alternative health care plan before voting on repeal. She said Republicans would risk “people falling through the cracks or causing turmoil in insurance markets” if lawmakers voided Obama’s statute without a replacement in hand.

Collins was among a handful of Republicans to occasionally break ranks to support some Democratic messaging amendments aimed at supporting such things as rural hospitals and a mandate to cover patients with pre-existing medical conditions. They were all shot down by majority Republicans anyway.

House leaders planned a Friday vote on the budget, though Republicans in that chamber also had misgivings.

Many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus were insisting on first learning details about what a GOP substitute would look like — or putting some elements of the replacement measure in the repeal bill.

“We need to be voting for a replacement plan at the same time that we vote for repeal,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., an influential conservative.

Some GOP senators have discussed a phase-in of three years or longer to give lawmakers more time to replace Obama’s overhaul and make sure people now covered by that law can adjust to a new program.

Some more moderate House Republicans were unhappy, too, including Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., a leader of GOP centrists in the House Tuesday Group. He said he would oppose the budget because there was too little information about the replacement, including whether people receiving expanded Medicaid coverage or health care subsidies under the existing law would be protected.

“We’re loading a gun here,” MacArthur said. “I want to know where it’s pointed before we start the process.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • 7

    klausdorth

    Say what?

    "“We must act quickly to bring relief to the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell"

    They must be out of their mind! Or do they have a better plan to cover those who really need it the most? I doubt it!! So far it's just "get rid of Obamacare and then we'll see". Doesn't work that way.

  • 10

    Madverts

    Still no sign of a replacement scheme.....

    Over the weeks and months it's coming according to Paul Ryan. It must be something amazing after 10 years of planning.

  • 9

    takeda.shingen.1991@gmail.com

    Good. Enjoy explaining it to the 30 million Americans who lose their healthcare, and the thousands of others who will now die as a result.

    Sorry folks, our "political beliefs" matter more than your lives.

  • -12

    Illyas

    Good. Enjoy explaining it to the 30 million Americans who lose their healthcare, and the thousands of others who will now die as a result.

    30 million Americans will lose their healthcare? Sort of like what happened when the ACA came into efffect, after Obama had promised 'if you like your plan, you can keep it'? Like those Americans?

  • 8

    lostrune2

    If they break it without something to replace it, then they have to buy it

  • 8

    gcbel

    I look forward to learning more about this "something terrific" Trump plan. I expect it to be "far less expensive" for everyone and no drop at all in numbers covered.

  • 11

    CrazyJoe

    Perhaps the Republican committees tasked to repeal Obamacare are the Death Panels that Sarah Palin was talking about years ago. These Death Panels will be sentencing millions of Americans to their death by denying them coverage. She finally got one right.

  • 4

    bones

    They will probably use the same health care system just under a different name.

  • 10

    Laguna

    Oh, you naysayers - Trump promised multiple times on the campaign trail to deliver a healthcare system "beautiful and terrific" and rid America of the scourge of the ACA. That was a main draw of Americans who voted for him - and while he may not have achieved a majority (or even a plurality), do you think those 46% of voters are fools? Of course he has a plan - why, he just promised last night that "repeal and replace" could happen in as quickly as one hour! After all, he's got the backing of Republican congressmen, who have been toiling on this for seven years!

    What could go wrong, with the GOP in complete control?

  • 10

    sf2k

    Unless they get single payer like my own healthcare here in Canada, they're out to systematically destroy their country no matter what words emanate from their conferences. They are millionaires and billionaires, what do they care about actual people?

    Without any details USA is going to suffer

  • 9

    Louis Amsel

    "The future generations will not live in the legacy of a black man"

    This is the only reason, apparently they won't openly say it

  • -9

    Texas A&M Aggie

    ObamaTax -- the ACA was never about health care -- reduced to 4 sentences (from 10K pages):

    In order to insure the uninsured, the insured first have to be uninsured.

    Next, the newly uninsured have to be re-insured.

    To re-insure the newly uninsured, we are required to pay extra charges (taxes) to be re-insured.

    The extra charges (taxes) are required so that the original insured, who became uninsured, and then became re-insured, can pay enough extra (taxes) so that those who refused to be originally insured can be insured free-of-charge.

    This is called "wealth redistribution", or progressivism; a PC way of saying communism. . .

  • 0

    Geta Gabo

    most of the people who will lose their benefits did either not vote at all or vote for Trump (amounts to the same thing), because (A) Hillary just wasnt perfect enough for them, or (B) going to the voting booth is just too mich trouble. Their problem if they loose their health insurance.

    But they made a big problem for the world. they put a person in power who may accidently start ww3 and who will certainly do his push the world climate system over the cliff. There are no profits on Venus dude!

    Donating to organisations fighting every inch of pipeline, every fracking site, every new oilrig one by one is the only thing to do.

  • -5

    Wolfpack

    They must be out of their mind! Or do they have a better plan to cover those who really need it the most? I doubt it!! So far it's just "get rid of Obamacare and then we'll see". Doesn't work that way.

    You mean it's crazy to pass a health care law on a party line vote and telling the representatives that they need to pass the bill in order to find out what's in it? Well come to think of it, that's how ObamaCare was passed. Therefore, I hope Republicans do the exact same thing - pass a replacement health care "scheme" with just vague outlines of what it will do and relying on Executive branch rules and regulations to flesh out the details for it's implementation. What could possibly be wrong with that? What's good for the goose is good for the gander as they say.

  • 4

    Madverts

    Well Wolf, it's safe to say you Trump Republicans will own whatever you do to Obamacare.

  • 3

    SuperLib

    Some people want a system with maximum coverage, others want some kind of revenge?

  • 5

    ThePBot

    It turns out that the sickest of all people want to repeal affordable medicare. Kind of ironic in a way.

  • 1

    njca4

    Is this based on their disdain of Obama or their fear of universal healthcare making them look like communists ?

    Republicans have a track record of doing ZILCH about healthcare. Look at what Reagan did (didn't do rather) about Mental Health, blocking funds for mental health programs and turning patients out on to the streets. It's ironic that dear old Ronald ended up getting shot by John Hinckley, a guy with untreated schizophrenia.

  • -1

    Illyas

    most of the people who will lose their benefits did either not vote at all or vote for Trump

    Where is your proof of this claim? Surely you aren't just making things up without any proof? A rational liberal like yourself would surely hold themselves to higher standard, right?

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