On Day 2 of the 115th Congress, Obamacare is on the chopping block with some high-profile backers making appearances on the Hill to argue for and against.
With news cameras set up and a bank of reporters waiting at the Capitol, Republican Mike Pence showed up Wednesday morning with an entourage as did President Barack Obama who was accompanied by U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer, who on Tuesday said America cannot afford a twitter presidency, tweeted out, “Republicans should stop clowning around with America’s health care. Don’t #MakeAmericaSickAgain”
Obama’s unusual appearance on the Hill was to rally the Democratic House and Senate, and urge them to stand up to any attempts to repeal his signature health care program.
Republican Vice President-elect Pence, who spent over a decade in the House before his election as Indiana governor, also met Republicans in both chambers of Congress while leading the charge that Obamacare has failed and needs to be repealed and replaced, a key campaign promise of President-elect Donald Trump.
Obamacare aka the Affordable Care Act has not fulfilled Obama’s promises that those who liked their health care could keep it. For most the cost of health care has skyrocketed after promises that it would decrease, and coverage has become increasingly unaffordable with high monthly payments and ever higher deductibles.
After the morning meetings, various members of Congress met with the press. On the GOP side, Pence, Ryan, and U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy addressed their actions to remove and replace Obamacare.
Representative John Lewis (D-GA) was concerned about what would follow if Obamacare were repealed, asking, “Would we be making things better or worse for the American people? Do they [Republicans] have a replacement? It brings uncertainty to the health care system with questions that will need answers.”
While the President didn’t talk with the press, he took a group photo with the young Capitol pages, then waved as he walked down the hallway on his way out, looking toward bystanders and press and calling out, “Look out for the American people.”
Schumer addressed the press, accompanied by Pelosi and a half dozen Democratic reps as well as former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT), stressing the need to keep the health care law and expressing doubt Republicans could come up with an acceptable replacement. Pelosi suggested grandma could end up living in your guest room if Obamacare were repealed, while Sanders expressed concern that Trump may also try to scrap Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security after campaigning that he would not touch them.
The Hill reported that Trump may be planning to use executive actions to achieve his goal:
Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with House GOP lawmakers on Wednesday morning.
He said Trump plans to take executive actions to start unwinding ObamaCare on day one, but did not get into specifics.
“Our first order of business will be to repeal and replace ObamaCare,” Pence told reporters, saying the process would begin “day one.”
“The president in his first day in office is going to do some level of executive orders related to ObamaCare,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). “No details whatsoever.”
While Republicans from Pence on down are clearly eager to get rid of ObamaCare, there is much more cautious enthusiasm among the GOP about crafting a healthcare policy to replace it.
Interestingly, some of Trump’s most passionate supporters in rural areas of the country have the most to lose if Obamacare is scrapped which has caused a dilemma for some representatives, Republican and Democratic, including West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who represents one of the strongest Trump areas in the country.
Indeed, some Democrats expressed concerns about Obamacare including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who had called for improvements and noted on the campaign trail that they needed to keep “what works about it but improve it, get the costs down.” Even President Obama said in October, “In my mind the [Affordable Care Act] has been a huge success, but it’s got real problems.”
It remains to be seen if both sides of the aisle will be willing to work together to provide an acceptable health care plan. It will prove to be one of the hottest issues as the GOP-controlled Congress undertakes its aggressive conservative agenda.