Republicans are ready to repeal Obamacare immediately. There’s just a bit of a disagreement about how long it should take to phase out President Obama’s current health care law and implement their replacement.
In the House, the Freedom Caucus, the conservative wing in the chamber, wants Republicans to yank the law as soon as it can. The shortest window possible for transition is what they would prefer.
“It should be repealed and replaced, and all of that should be done in the 115th Congress not left to a future Congress to deal with,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told Politico earlier this week.
Most of the Senate GOP wants to take it slower in an effort to give themselves plenty of time to transition out of Obamacare, come up with a replacement and implement their new health care law (which doesn’t exist yet).
The tension between the House and the Senate is beginning to show. While House Freedom Caucus members have every reason to want a faster transition because they hail from safe conservative districts where their voters may push against them for acting too slowly, senators may be in a better position to hold off on fully implementing a new health care law until after the midterm elections.
During interviews with Republican senators Wednesday, many of them seemed to still be leaning toward a three-year transition. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate GOP’s No. 2, mentioned a three-year transition would give them time to work out the details of a news plan.
But there was some recognition that the senators may have to adapt.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member who will be central to negotiations, said that he thought the Senate could be stuck with a two-year timeframe.
“Well, the House said two years so I think we’re stuck with it, unless they changed it,” Hatch told reporters Wednesday. “I would prefer it be three years, there’s no question about it. I think it would be wiser to have three years.”
When pushed further if there was any consensus or if any decisions had been made, Hatch said that “in the Senate there’s consensus for three years, but you know, if we can’t change the House, then we may be stuck with just two years. I’d like to get it done before then anyway.”
The disagreement about how long to delay the effective date of the repeal may seem tiny. And, in a sense it is. Health care experts have warned that any transition could still send insurance markets into a tail spin. It may not really matter how long that transition is. But the disagreement is noteworthy still because it is the first of many expected as the House and Senate settle into their new working relationship together with a Republican president. No longer can they be united against President Barack Obama. Now, the two chambers will have to work out their differences. Who wins here may give us a good sense of how the two chambers will work together in the future.
“I don’t think that will be hard. I think what will be hard if there is a challenge, the challenge will be how quickly we can define what that replacement is,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). “I think it will be relatively easy to decide the timeline that you have to work with and my guess is that that’s three years.”
It’s true a timeline is nothing compared to the disagreements that could be coming down the line as Republicans dig in on what the replacement to Obamacare should be. In six years, Republicans haven’t unveiled a replacement. And there is a reason why.