President-elect Donald Trump may have cranked up the heat on Republican lawmakers working to repeal and replace Obamacare, telling the New York Times the two goals must be accomplished “together” in an interview published Tuesday.
Trump told members of his party a week ago to “be careful” in how they proceed legislating on the issue, given that Democrats are stuck with the law’s political baggage. Soon after, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and House speaker Paul Ryan said undoing the Affordable Care Act and enacting its successor would be done in two steps, with Pence specifying that the second order of business would be to “begin [an] orderly transition” to a new health care regime. Although Pence didn’t attach a timeline to that arrangement, it has appeared to be, in broad terms, the GOP’s expected path forward.
But the president-elect argued for different plans in the Times report, no matter how infeasible they would be to pursue.
Mr. Trump, who seemed unclear about the timing of already scheduled votes in Congress this week, demanded a repeal vote “probably some time next week,” and said “the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”
That demand is very likely impossible. Republicans in Congress are nowhere close to agreement on a major health bill that would replace President Obama’s signature domestic achievement. A number of Republicans in the House and Senate have said publicly that they wanted to hold off on voting to eviscerate the health law until a replacement measure could be negotiated.
For now, the Senate is planning to vote Thursday morning on a budget resolution that would set up parliamentary protections for a health care repeal bill that would have to emerge from House and Senate committees by Jan. 27. The House would vote on Friday if that budget measure clears the Senate.
That plan is under pressure from Republicans who want to slow the process as they struggle for an agreement on what would follow repeal.
GOP senators trying to get their feet on the brakes include the recently reelected Rob Portman, who directed the Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush administration and was part of a group that introduced a budget amendment Monday slowing the repeal and replace action. The budget resolution before the Senate instructs committees to report deficit-reduction legislation that is expected to include Obamacare repeal, and to do so no later than January 27. The amendment from Portman and Sens. Bill Cassidy, Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski would delay the deadline to March 3. Corker nodded to Trump’s wishes that repealing and replacing the law “take place simultaneously” in a statement accompanying the amendment’s announcement.
Sen. Rand Paul, who has advocated such an approach himself, tweeted late Friday that the president-elect agreed with his views, per a phone call between the two men. Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus called pairing the two actions the “ideal” route during a weekend interview on Face the Nation.
The uncertainty complicates the hopes of Republicans looking to repeal much of the health care law immediately. Doing so through “budget reconciliation,” which would gut the law’s budgetary provisions—including the individual mandate—can be accomplished with a simple Senate majority. But with only a 52-48 advantage in seats held, the five amendment-backers and Paul present a significant potential obstacle.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard