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Republicans — except for Rand Paul — vote to gut Obamacare in the dead of night

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The U.S. Senate on Thursday took a first concrete step toward dismantling Obamacare, voting to instruct key committees to draft legislation repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance program.

The final vote, which ended just past 1:30 a.m., was 51-48. The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it this week. Scrapping Obamacare is a top priority for the Republican majorities in both chambers and Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

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Republicans have said that the process of repealing Obamacare could take months, and developing a replacement plan could take longer. But they are under pressure from Trump to act fast; he said on Wednesday that the repeal and replacement should happen “essentially simultaneously.”

Some 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is officially called. Coverage was extended by expanding Medicaid and through online exchanges where consumers can receive income-based subsidies.

Republicans have launched repeated legal and legislative efforts to unravel the law, criticizing it as government overreach. They say they want to replace it by giving states, not the federal government, more control.

But in recent days some Republicans have expressed concern about the party’s current strategy of voting for a repeal without having a consensus replacement plan ready.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said this week he wants to pack as many replacement provisions as possible into the legislation repealing Obamacare. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, also a Republican, said this could be difficult under Senate rules.

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The resolution approved Thursday instructs committees of the House and Senate to draft repeal legislation by a target date of January 27. Both chambers will then need to approve the resulting legislation before any repeal goes into effect.

Senate Republicans are using special budget procedures that allow them to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority; this way they don’t need Democratic votes. Republicans have a majority of 52 votes in the 100-seat Senate; one Republican, Senator Rand Paul, voted no on Thursday.

Democrats mocked the Republican effort, saying Republicans have never united around an alternative to Obamacare. “They want to kill ACA but they have no idea how they are going to bring forth a substitute proposal,” declared Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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Trump said Wednesday he would submit a replacement plan as soon as his nominee to lead the Health and Human Services department, Representative Tom Price, is approved by the Senate. But Trump gave no details.

Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 over united Republican opposition. Democrats say the act is insuring more Americans and helping to slow the growth in healthcare spending.

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But Republicans say the system is not working. The average Obamacare premium is set to rise 25 percent in 2017.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Nick Macfie)


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Fresno Bee burns Nunes to the ground in scathing editorial

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The editorial board of the Fresno Bee has written a scathing takedown of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for his extraordinary fealty to President Donald Trump, which the editors say is harming the country.

Specifically, the editorial accuses Nunes of forsaking his oath of office as a congressman to serve as Trump's most loyal toady on the House Intelligence Committee.

"As has been true for nearly all of Trump’s first term, Nunes has relinquished his proper role as an independent representative of Congress and has instead acted like a member of the Trump 2020 re-election team," the editorial states.

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Republicans blundered badly as their own impeachment expert witness wrecked their defenses of Trump: columnist

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Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee pinned their hopes on George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, their sole expert witness on the panel at the hearing on Wednesday, to discredit the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump.

But as anti-Trump conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote for the Washington Post, even Turley's testimony ended up damaging the GOP more than Democrats, because he undercut one of the GOP's most solid narratives in defense of the president: that trying to extort Ukraine with military aid would not be impeachable even if it was proven.

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‘Dirty’ Jared Kushner should be targeted if GOP makes impeachment trial about Bidens: strategist

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President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants Senate Republicans to turn his impeachment trial around on Democrats by actually making it a trial of the Biden family.

The president on Thursday signaled that he wants former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, to testify at his impeachment trial in an effort to make the trial less about his own misconduct and more about purported misconduct by the Democrats.

However, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg on Thursday proposed a plan to counter this kind of misdirection: Going after Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose shady dealings with world leaders have so far escaped significant scrutiny.

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