Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) seemed to be leaning toward a strategy to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously Tuesday, something that is being pushed by House conservatives in the Freedom Caucus.
“Why would we put off for three years doing what we know we have to do?” Corker told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
While Corker said he still wanted to hear from Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was scheduled to meet with senators shortly after Corker spoke to reporters, he openly wondered whether waiting three years to replace Obamacare could create political problems down the line.
When asked explicitly if he had any problem with the House Freedom Caucus’ call to work on repeal and replace at the same time, Corker said he didn’t. He warned the only hazard would only be “getting Republicans to agree on what the replacement is.”
“It doesn’t seem to me that it would really take that long to come up with a replacement and so that is the debate. Are we better off through reconciliation, ending it in three years and then working toward that? You know that is a long time. Momentum can get lost. Or are we better off on the front end right now just replacing it and being done with it,” Corker said, emphasizing again he was looking forward to hearing from Pence on the issue.
Pence was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to huddle with Republican senators at their weekly caucus lunch.
Over the last two weeks, it seemed that Republicans in the House and the Senate were beginning to coalesce around a strategy to repeal Obamacare immediately using the budget reconciliation process, which only required 51 votes in the Senate. Then, Republicans proposed a long three-year transition period to figure out the replacement.
The problem with that strategy is that some health care experts have warned it could disrupt and severely cripple insurance markets still involved in ACA and hurt beneficiaries still on it. The other issue is that Republicans will likely still need Democrats’ help to come up with a replacement and pass it. If Republicans start with repeal, it could poison the well down the line. Working on repeal and replace simultaneously may make Democrats more willing to get involved to fix President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“You really do have to have 60 votes to replace and you know reconciliation can create some hangover effects as we’ve seen with the health care bill itself and with the Bush tax cuts and all of that so are you better off going ahead and attempting to put something in place that will work that does away with all the negatives that exist in ACA, but builds on some of the positives?” Corker asked. “Again, President-elect Trump mentioned, I thought wisely during the campaign, that replacement and repeal should be done simultaneously.”
Corker said he met with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the HELP Committee, on Monday about the best steps forward.