The day after Republicans introduced their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the conservative opposition came swiftly. Throughout the day Tuesday, conservative members from the House and the Senate, as well as conservative advocacy groups voiced their opposition to the bill, deriding it with nicknames like “Ryancare” and “Obamacare 2.0.”
Here’s the calculation for Republican leadership: If it remains the case that no Democrats come forward to support the bill, in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan can’t afford to lose more than 21 votes. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has only two votes votes to spare -- and if two Republicans defect, he’ll need Mike Pence to break the tie.
GOP Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus voiced their concerns about the legislation in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“What’s been introduced in the last 24 hours is not the Obamacare replacement plan, not the Obamacare repeal, we’ve been hoping for,” he railed. “This is instead a step in the wrong direction.”
Paul called the GOP bill “Obamacare lite,” but he’s not ready to ditch the bill entirely. He told reporters that negotiations are only just beginning, and he expects to see changes made to the legislation.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan summed up conservative opposition to the measure.
“Look -- did we promise the American people we were going to repeal Obamacare but keep some of the Obamacare taxes? Did we promise the American people we were going to repeal Obamacare but keep and expand the Medicaid expansion,” he asked rhetorically. “And did we promise the American people we were going to repeal Obamacare but start a new entitlement with the fancy name of advanceable refundable tax credits? I don’t think we did.”
While the new bill eliminates the individual mandate, it does create a 30 percent penalty for individuals who have a gap in their coverage. It also retains the Medicaid expansion but adds some limits, and the plan also replaces the Affordable Care Act subsidies with refundable tax credits to help individuals afford health insurance.
President Trump enthusiastically offered his support, predicting that the replacement plan will be “much more popular than people can even imagine.” And he spent part of the day Tuesday strategizing with Republicans on how to move the bill forward. He also exerted a little pressure over Twitter, tweeting at Paul over his opposition:
Vice President Mike Pence also paid a visit to his old colleagues on the hill to push for the bill, talking with both Senate Republicans and with House members that included the conservatives who are skeptical of the plan.
But Republican lawmakers are also drawing opposition from conservative advocacy groups that have in recent memory demonstrated quite a bit of influence with GOP members.
Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham released a blistering statement.
“In many ways, the House Republican proposal released last night not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon it,” he wrote.
For two Koch-affiliated groups, the GOP plan amounts to “Obamacare 2.0.”
“We cannot support it,” Americans For Prosperity and Freedom Partners wrote in a joint letter to Ryan. “The bill currently under consideration in the House does not repeal the elements that made Obamacare so devastating to American families.”