Two influential conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives urged lawmakers on Thursday to get moving with a repeal of Obamacare, reflecting concerns that the process is getting bogged down amid disputes over how to replace the healthcare law.
President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans campaigned on a promise to dismantle Obamacare, which they consider federal government overreach. They have been working on fulfilling that pledge as an early product of Republican control of both the White House and Congress.
But while both chambers voted last month to start the process of scrapping the law, they missed a target date of Jan. 27 by which they wanted to draft legislation doing so. At a congressional retreat last week, Republican leaders told lawmakers they hoped Congress would finish the Obamacare repeal by March or April.
Representative Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, and Representative Jim Jordan, the caucus' former chairman, urged the party leadership on Thursday to quickly take up an Obamacare repeal measure that the Republican-majority Congress passed last year. It was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.
Obama, a Democrat, signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and it has long been opposed by Republicans.
"We committed to the American people to repeal every tax (in Obamacare), every mandate, the regulations, and to defund (women's healthcare provider) Planned Parenthood," Meadows and Jordan said in a statement. "That's what the American people expect us to do – and they expect us to do it quickly."
Democrats accuse Republicans of rushing to gut the Affordable Care Act, without having a replacement plan ready. The law has enabled up to 20 million previously uninsured Americans to obtain health coverage.
But some Republicans like Representative Tom McClintock of California have expressed concern that the way Congress is going about dismantling Obamacare - fast-tracking it through the budget process, so that no Democratic votes are needed - would not completely repeal the law in the near term, while making Republicans responsible for any ensuing problems in the insurance market.
Some Republicans are also worried the discussion over the replacement could lead to something similar to Obamacare. Two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, are proposing legislation that would allow states to keep Obamacare if they wish.
"I'm hearing a lot of members say that they want Obamacare-light. And that's not what we promised the American people," Representative Raul Labrador, another Freedom Caucus member, said this week.
Trump has directed lawmakers to act speedily to repeal Obamacare, with a substitute done "very quickly or simultaneously". But he has also said he wants "insurance for everybody."
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Frances Kerry)