U.S. Republicans lay out plans for Obamacare repeal

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By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan | PHILADELPHIA

PHILADELPHIA U.S. Republican leaders on
Wednesday laid out plans for repealing Obamacare by spring,
followed by funding the building of a border wall and reforming
the tax code by late summer, as lawmakers launched an effort to
unify behind a legislative strategy.

But Republicans gathered in Philadelphia for a three-day
retreat showed little fervor for President Donald Trump’s calls
to investigate what he believes was large-scale voter fraud in
the Nov. 8 election.

Trump on Wednesday said he would seek such a probe, although
there is overwhelming consensus among state officials, election
experts and politicians that such fraud is rare in the United
States.

At the closed-door retreat, House of Representatives Speaker
Paul Ryan laid out a plan of legislative action including repeal
of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s
signature health law known as Obamacare, by March or April,
followed by appropriations for a border wall with Mexico and
overhauling the tax code by August, one Republican source said.

Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate.

A senior House Republican, Representative Diane Black, said
key House committees will take votes within the next two weeks
on draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Then we expect that probably toward the latter part of
February, or the first part of March, that we should be ready to
go with the final reconciliation bill” to repeal Obamacare, she
told reporters.

Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican who was
an early Trump backer, said on MSNBC that lawmakers were told at
the retreat that they will write legislation “in the next two
months” to help pay for the border wall that Trump signed
directives to build.

On the issue of tax reform, Ryan, speaking to MSNBC, said:
“Our goal is to get this done by the end of summer, which is for
Congress quite fast.”

While there is Republican enthusiasm about the idea of swift
action against Obamacare and on taxes, the challenge for Trump
and congressional Republicans will be getting lawmakers to
coalesce around specific plans.

“THE ELECTION’S OVER WITH”

Trump won in November because he secured the most votes in
the state-by-state Electoral College system, but he lost the
popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million
ballots. Irked by that large figure, he has blamed voter fraud,
without citing evidence, and called for an investigation.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, chair of the Senate
Republican Conference, saw little need for a probe.

“I’ve not seen any evidence to that effect, but if they want
to take that issue up, that’s a decision obviously that he can
make,” Thune told reporters.

“All I can say is what I’ve said before, and that is that
we’ve moved on, the election’s over with, we had a decisive
winner in our constitutional system, and we’re ready to go to
work,” he said.

U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington
state, chair of the Republican conference in the House of
Representatives, took a wait-and-see attitude toward Trump’s
demand for a probe.

“It’s very important that people have confidence in the
elections and the outcome of those elections. And I’ll wait
until I see more of what he’s proposing before I comment on what
his action is going to be,” she said.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to meet
with the lawmakers on Thursday. British Prime Minister Theresa
May will also join lawmakers in Philadelphia on Thursday and is
expected to discuss plans for a possible U.S.-U.K. trade deal.

Congress is under pressure from Trump to act quickly. But
some congressional Republicans have expressed concern about
starting a repeal without clarity about how to replace a law
that has expanded health insurance coverage to millions.

The retreat will provide an opportunity for Trump and his
staff to build a rapport with lawmakers, many of whom have had
little contact with the president, a New York businessman who
had no experience in government before taking office.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan)



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