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Published: Tuesday, March 07, 2017 @ 6:51 AM
As President Donald Trump joined with top Republicans in moving to sell GOP lawmakers on a new bill to reform the Obama health law, there were early signs of discontent within Republican ranks about that plan, even as key architects of the measure argued their party is on the right track.
"Our plan is the first step," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as he argued Republicans must act quickly to change the Obama health law.
"The facts are, we've arrived at the scene of a pretty big wreck and we're trying to clean up the mess," Walden told reporters at a news conference.
"We can act now, or we can keep fiddling around and squander this opportunity," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Chairman of the powerful tax writing Ways and Means Committee.
Asked about criticism of this new plan as ObamaCare Lite, Brady fired back.
"This is ObamaCare gone," he said.
But there were early red flags from some GOP lawmakers on the Republican health care plan.
"This is not the ObamaCare repeal bill we've been waiting for," said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). "It is a missed opportunity and a step in the wrong direction."
"It will not pass," declared Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). "We should be stopping mandates, taxes and entitlements not keeping them."
Outside conservative groups also weighed in against some of the details as well, like the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.
"This is ObamaCare-lite," said Jason Pye of the conservative group Freedom Works, which pointedly zeroed in on several key provisions in the GOP health bill.
"It creates a new entitlement through the refundable tax credits. It allows insurance companies to assess a 30 percent penalty on those who don't keep continuous coverage for 63 days, which is an individual mandate by another name," Pye said.
As for President Trump, he announced his support via Twitter, making clear that he is behind this Republican effort, and trying to assuage worries that the bill doesn't go far enough.
"Our wonderful new Healthcare Bill is now out for review and negotiation," the President tweeted. "ObamaCare is a complete and total disaster."
The reference by the President to "phase 2 & 3" is a reminder that some provisions of the Obama health law cannot be repealed or significantly addressed in the process known as "budget reconciliation" - like the issue of allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines.
That would need to be addressed in a separate bill, which would need 60 votes to clear the U.S. Senate in held up by a filibuster.
No Democrats gave any sign of supporting the GOP plan, and were only too happy to highlight divisions within Republican ranks.
"There is just no way that this bill meets the President's standards," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.