As Conservatives Fume Over GOP Health Care Plan, Pence Says ‘This Is The Bill’

Vice President Mike Pence joins the Senate GOP leadership, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, as Republicans introduce their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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Flanked by the GOP Senate leadership team, Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday delivered an implicit message to those conservatives who are resisting House Republicans’ newly-unveiled Obamacare repeal bill.

“The President and I believe that the American Health Care Act is the framework for reform,” Pence told reporters after meeting with the Senate GOP, referring to the controversial legislation.

“We’re certainly open to improvements and to recommendations in the legislative process, but this is the bill and the President supports the American Health Act,” Pence said.

Since the legislation dropped Monday evening, it has been buried in a deluge criticisms from conservative lawmakers and outside groups, who have slammed it as “Obamacare-lite.” The bill would repeal most of the Affordable Care Act’s taxes and bring about massive cuts to Medicaid, but it would also rework the ACA’s tax credits, prompting GOP hardliners to label it a “welfare entitlement.”

After his appearance at the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday, Pence and congressional leaders sought to a make a forceful case that the House bill was the way forward on health care reform.

“The status quo being unacceptable, the President, the administration, the House and the Senate have all come together behind a proposal that we’re confident will be a dramatic improvement over the status quo,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said.

Part of the challenge facing Republicans is that over the years they’ve taken dozens of votes to repeal the ACA, but none of the plans offered to replace the law gained broad consensus, reflecting the vast disagreements over health care policy among the GOP caucus. Now lawmakers are trying to hash out those disagreements on a expedited timeline that aims to repeal the ACA this spring.

“The American people have given us the opportunity to govern. We’re no longer just floating ideas knowing full well President Obama would not sign them,” McConnell said Tuesday.

In a scrum with reporters, the No. 3 Senate Republican, John Thune (R-SD), was even more direct about the choice that Republicans thinking about defecting from the bill will face.

“Everybody right now I think is trying to leverage their position, help shape and influence the bill in the direction they want to see it go before its ultimately voted on,” Thune said when asked about the harsh language conservatives were using to bash the legislation.

“But when push comes to shove and the vote occurs over here, it’s going to be either a vote for the status quo or a vote to repeal this and to move to a better way,” Thune said. “And that’s what our members are going to be faced with and that’s the going to be the way I think it will be framed. It will be a yes or no vote.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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