Some U.S. House Republicans doubtful ahead of vote to begin Obamacare repeal

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By Susan Cornwell | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. House of Representatives
moved toward a Friday vote to begin dismantling Obamacare
despite anxiety among some Republicans they were rushing into a
major step without knowing the budget consequences or having a
firm idea of how they would replace the healthcare law.

The Republican-led Congress, under pressure from
President-elect Donald Trump to act quickly, made the first move
toward scrapping Obamacare on Thursday as the Senate voted to
instruct key committees to draft legislation to repeal it.

The House plans to vote on the measure on Friday, Speaker
Paul Ryan said. Some Republican lawmakers said on Thursday they
were not sure how they would vote.

“I don’t want to vote for this and say it’s the first step
(toward repeal), and find out that there are some long-term
budget consequences,” said Republican Representative Mark
Amodei.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
said earlier this month that repealing President Barack Obama’s
signature health insurance law in its entirety would cost
roughly $350 billion over the next decade. Republicans say a
good Obamacare replacement strategy would reduce government
spending, but they have not agreed on a consensus plan.

Amodei said he was leaning for now toward voting for the
Obamacare repeal resolution. But he added that “listening to the
scuttlebutt on the floor … as of right now, my impression is,
they (House leadership) don’t have the votes.”

The fate of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as
Obamacare, is a high-stakes political showdown between
Republicans and Democrats that potentially jeopardizes medical
coverage for millions of Americans and risks causing chaos in
the health insurance marketplace.

Democrats accused Republicans of rushing to scrap Obamacare,
a law that has enabled up to 20 million previously uninsured
Americans to obtain health coverage, without yet having a firm
replacement plan. The Democrats say Obamacare has allowed
growing numbers of Americans to get medical insurance and helped
slow the rise in healthcare spending.

Republicans have called Obamacare federal government
overreach and have sought to undermine it in Congress and the
courts since it was passed by Democratic majorities in the House
and Senate in 2010.

Trump, the Republican president-elect who takes office on
Jan. 20, called Obamacare a “disaster” during his campaign and
pledged to repeal and replace it.

‘MAJOR CONCERNS’

Conservative Republicans as well as moderates expressed
concern about launching a repeal before there is clarity about
how to replace provisions of the complicated and far-reaching
law.

Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative
House Freedom Caucus, which has about 40 members, said they were
undecided about how to vote.

Moderate Republican Representative Charlie Dent has “major
concerns” about the process, according to a spokesman, fearing a
repeal vote at the start diminishes the leverage that may be
needed to get some lawmakers to back a replacement later.

The resolution passed by the Senate on Thursday instructs
committees of the House and Senate to draft repeal legislation
by Jan. 27. Both chambers will then need to approve the
resulting legislation before any repeal goes into effect.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi vowed to fight. “I
think it’s easier to win a fight when something is going to be
taken away from you,” Pelosi said in an appearance with elderly
Americans who talked about how they had been helped by the law’s
provisions, including lower prescription drug costs.

Ryan said while Congress would take some replacement steps,
the incoming Trump administration would be able to act on its
own on some aspects, which he did not detail. Ryan said
lawmakers were working on dismantling Obamacare “in sync” with
Trump.

“We’re not holding hard deadlines, only because we want to
get it right,” Ryan said.

Trump put new pressure on congressional Republicans on
Wednesday when he said Obamacare repeal and replacement should
happen “essentially simultaneously.” An influential conservative
group, Heritage Action, late on Wednesday pressed lawmakers to
back the repeal resolution.

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the replacement
effort would likely tackle drug pricing.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert and Richard
Cowan)



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