America To Change National Anthem To "Livin' On A Prayer"


By Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett

Congressional Republicans are setting up their own, self-imposed deadline to make good on their vow to replace the Affordable Care Act. With buy-in from Donald Trump’s transition team, GOP leaders on both sides of the Capitol are coalescing around a plan to vote to repeal the law in early 2017 — but delay the effective date for that repeal for as long as three years.

They’re crossing their fingers that the delay will help them get their own house in order, as well as pressure a handful of Senate Democrats — who would likely be needed to pass replacement legislation — to come onboard before the clock runs out and 20 million Americans lose their health insurance. The idea is to satisfy conservative critics who want President Barack Obama’s signature initiative gone now, but reassure Americans that Republicans won’t upend the entire health care system without a viable alternative that preserves the law’s popular provisions.

“We’re talking about a three-year transition now that we actually have a president who’s likely to sign the repeal into the law. People are being, understandably cautious, to make sure nobody’s dropped through the cracks,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The tentative strategy is reminiscent of Capitol Hill’s infamous “fiscal cliff” days, when Congress imposed simultaneous deadlines to raise the debt ceiling, extend expiring tax cuts and fund the government. The hope was that it would create irresistible political pressure to get behind a bipartisan mega-fiscal deal.

This time , however, it’s access to health care for tens of millions of people that’s on the line.

“I think once it’s repealed, you will have hopefully fewer people playing politics and [instead] coming together to try to find the best policy,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday. He added that when there is “a date certain that something’s going away … you know you have to have something done.”

The strategy presents significant risks. The fight over a replacement is guaranteed to be messier than the cathartic repeal vote. Giving themselves as many as three years to figure it out shows that Republicans are well aware of how tough it will be.

Trump has made the GOP’s task harder by saying he wants to preserve elements of the the law that protect people with pre-existing conditions and allow young people to remain on their parent’s health insurance until they turn 26 years old, pricey provisions that will complicate Republican efforts to merely gut the law. Plus, there are millions of people now relying on Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion that the GOP will be loath to cast off the insurance rolls.

And following a repeal vote, insurance companies could bail on Obamacare immediately, even if there is a three-year grace period, leaving people with no health plans.

“The flaws in Obamacare are obvious to me. The solutions are much harder,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).


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