GOP Divided Over New Course 03/28 06:07
Still reeling from last week's House health care debacle, Republicans are
pivoting to tax cuts and other issues but remain riven into factions and all
over the map about how and when to return to their marquee pledge to eviscerate
former President Barack Obama's 2010 overhaul.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Still reeling from last week's House health care debacle,
Republicans are pivoting to tax cuts and other issues but remain riven into
factions and all over the map about how and when to return to their marquee
pledge to eviscerate former President Barack Obama's 2010 overhaul.
House Republicans are gathering Tuesday to discuss their agenda, their first
meeting since House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., suddenly abandoned plans last
Friday for a vote on the GOP legislation. The retreat on the party's top
legislative priority so far this year was a jarring defeat for President Donald
Trump and Republican leaders and raised questions about whether the GOP could
muster the unity it will need on other issues.
The doomed GOP bill would have eliminated Obama's mandate for people to
carry insurance or face fines and would have shrunk a Medicaid expansion. It
relied on tax credits to help consumers purchase insurance that for many people
would be less generous than under Obama's statute.
Republicans have issued mixed messages on what comes next.
Trump tweeted Monday evening that Democrats will cut a health care deal with
him "as soon as Obamacare folds - not long. Do not worry."
He also attacked anew the House Freedom Caucus, about three dozen hardcore
conservatives who largely opposed the GOP bill. He wrote that they snatched
"defeat from the jaws of victory."
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, an author of the failed
legislation, told reporters that Republicans "are turning the page and moving
on toward tax reform." He said he's encouraging the Senate to produce its own
health care package, and he and others suggested that lawmakers may produce
several smaller bills addressing pieces of the issue.
But the Senate GOP's No. 2 leader, John Cornyn of Texas, showed little
appetite to plunge ahead.
"My hope is that Democrats will quit gloating at our inability to get it
done on a party-line basis and join us in fixing" Obama's law, Cornyn said. He
said he didn't expect that to happen until "our Democratic friends have to
start answering to the people who are being hurt by the failures of Obamacare."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats will address
Obama's overhaul only when Republicans drop their repeal effort. He accused
Trump of using executive actions to destabilize the health care system. "That's
not presidential," he said, "that's petulance."
Obama's overhaul has provided insurance to 20 million additional people and
forced insurers to provide better coverage to many more, but it's also left
some markets with soaring premiums and fewer insurers.
Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich, who's opposed the Republican bill for proposing
deep cuts in Medicaid, visited House GOP moderates Monday. He predicted
afterward that the measure would not "rise out of the ashes" because Congress
is "dysfunctional," and said the two parties needed to produce bipartisan
The episode has left Republicans divided into camps that are happy to blame
each other for the legislation's failure.
"We're going to have to look at where a governing majority comes from.
That's going to require some answers from the Freedom Caucus," said centrist
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa.
But Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., a Freedom Caucus member, said on CNN that Trump
got bad advice "from some in leadership who said that some of us should not
even exist up here. We need to be on a team and get a good product."
The health care strategizing comes as the GOP has one clear bright spot:
Trump's nomination of conservative appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the
Supreme Court. The Senate plans to consider Gorsuch next week.
Brady wants his panel to produce a bill overhauling much of the nation's tax
code this spring. But Republicans must overcome internal differences on that
issue too, including whether to impose taxes on imports to encourage
manufacturers to produce products domestically and whether the measure should
drive up deficits.
Congress is fast approaching a deadline to pass government-wide spending
legislation or face a shutdown. In the past such deadlines have prompted
brinkmanship that sometimes led to shuttering agencies.
Leaders tentatively plan to produce a bipartisan measure providing more than
$1 trillion to fund the government through Sept. 30. That could prove
difficult, with conservatives possibly insisting on more money to build Trump's
border wall or to halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood, and Democrats
abandoning the effort if it tilts against their liking.