Johnson told reporters Tuesday that HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) often told colleagues to look at Obamacare like a broken bridge. The advice is not to buy it, but instead repair it.
"We'll seek to repair it so the public can use it. Nobody wants to pull out the rug from anybody else," Johnson told reporters. "We have to be designing the new bridges and things that actually work so I think that is a pretty good analogy."
The rhetoric is a shift from Republicans just a month ago who were gunning to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible without much forethought of what came next. Many rank-and-file Republicans are growing increasingly uneasy now that simply repealing Obamacare without a clear replacement could backfire, leave individuals in their states without insurance and cause a death spiral in the insurance market.
"Right now we have a bridge that is crumbling, close to collapse. We need to shore it up. It's very complex," Johnson said. "It's gonna take some time. We are probably going to need help from Democratic colleagues so let's start seeking that help right off the bat. Let's start voting on some of these elements."
So far, few conversations in the Senate have been actually occurring between Republicans and Democrats on a replacement. But, it is true that while Republican senators can repeal many parts of Obamacare through reconciliation, which only requires a majority vote in the Senate, they cannot replace it that way. That means that Democrats will have to sign on and Johnson said he has serious concerns they will help with the heavy lifting if Republicans charge blindly ahead with repeal.
"We need to understand what the whole package is," Johnson said. "How do we get votes for replace? I take Sen. Schumer at his word that if we vote repeal , they're not going to help us at all. That means we are going to have a hard time getting replacement."
Johnson said he needed to see the "game plan" and "strategy" laid out.
"Let's understand exactly what we're doing here before we just take step one," Johnson said.