There’s a math problem involved in House Republicans’ move to repeal and replace the sweeping 2010 health care law, and it’s one that might not add up for Republicans.
It goes like this: There are normally 435 members of the House, but there are currently five vacancies. A majority, therefore, would be 216. Assuming all 193 Democrats oppose Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the law, Republicans can’t lose any more than 21 of the current 237 House Republican votes.
And that’s where Rep. Jim Jordan and his allies could become an issue.
Jordan, R-Urbana, is the founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is so upset about the GOP plan that they held a press conference Tuesday to decry it. On Wednesday, Jordan introduced his own plan – a clean repeal bill that didn’t include the myriad of tax credits in House GOP leadership’s plan. He did so even as House Republicans Wednesday begun moving forward with their own bills over strenuous Democratic objections.
Ready for more math? The House Freedom Caucus has just shy of 40 members, though few have publicly committed so far to voting against the plan.
Jordan maintains his bill is one that every House Republican voted on 15 months ago – a clean repeal of Obamacare, nothing more, nothing less. He said the plan has always been to repeal the 2010 law with one bill and replace it with a second bill. He calls the Republican leadership’s bill “Obamcare in a different form,” and said his plan “is consistent with what we told voters we were going to do.”
In particular, he’s concerned about the tax issue: The leadership plan would provide tax credits, but Jordan says that could become the equivalent of a hand-out, should the tax credit recipient already not have a tax liability.
“The real measure should be does it bring down our health care costs,” he said. “I don’t see how that bill achieves that.”
For his part, House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has “no doubt” the House will pass the plan, saying Congress promised the American people it would repeal and replace Obamacare.
Jordan’s bill is nearly identical to one that Obama vetoed in 2015. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concluded in January that the 2015 Republican bill, which was vetoed by Obama, would have increased the number of uninsured Americans by 18 million during the first year and boosted the cost of individual policies sold through the federal exchanges by as much as 25 percent.
The CBO has not evaluated the type of replacement Jordan talked about Tuesday, nor has it evaluated the Republican leadership plan.
But Jordan, in an interview, made it clear that among many conservatives, the House plan is a non-starter. The Freedom Caucus met last night, he said, “and people were fired up about the bill and very concerned.” The Trump administration is concerned enough about the group that they invited Jordan and other Freedom Caucus leaders to the White House Tuesday to meet with Vice President Mike Pence. Jordan and other House conservatives are scheduled to meet President Trump - a full-throated supporter of the GOP leadership bill - for dinner at the White House next Tuesday.
Like Democrats, Jordan and the Freedom Caucus are also concerned about the timing. The bill’s details were released Monday night, and went straight to up Wednesday without hearings – a fact that Democrats lambasted during the Ways and Means markup of the bill.
“This legislation is so weak that Republicans are unwilling to have it vetted in the public light until the very last moment,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
But Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, the chairman of the House Ways and Means’ Health Subcommittee, said Obamacare was pushed through quickly. He said that in a matter of hours back in 2010, a 1,000 bill quickly became a 2,000 page bill.
According to his office, Congress has held more than 200 hearings on repealing and replacing Obamacare since 2011.
“The fact is this is a 57-page document we are looking at today,” he said during a markup of the tax provisions in the bill, saying his 8-year-old daughter can read 20 pages in 30 minutes. Democrats, he argued, “have had ample time read this 57 pages over the last 48 hours.”
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