McConnell Promises ACA Replacement 'Soon' But With No Time Frame

Evan Vucci
January 9, 2017,

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in an interview with CBS' Face the Nation Sunday, said an Obamacare replacement would come "rapidly" after the law is repealed, but declined to give a specific timeline. He also dodged a question as to whether a hypothetical Republican alternative to Obamacare would maintain the law's coverage levels.

"Well, what you need to understand is that there are 25 million Americans who aren’t covered now. If the idea behind Obamacare was to get everyone covered, that’s one of the many failures," McConnell said.

GOP congressional leadership has said it intends to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible, with the use of a Senate procedure known as reconciliation, which only requires a majority vote in the upper chamber. Some Republican senators have expressed their discomfort with repealing the law without a replacement ready.

When asked by CBS News' John Dickerson when a replacement was coming, McConnell said, "Well, soon."

"I mean, you have to both repeal and replace. And I think there-- there ought not to be a great gap between the first step and the second," McConnell said, before bringing up polling showing that Americans want the law repealed or significantly changed.

Dickerson brought up Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) tweet from over the weekend alleging that President-elect Donald Trump had agreed with Paul's plan to repeal and replace the law simultaneously.

"Well, I haven’t heard Senator Paul’s plan to replace it. But we-- we will be replacing it rapidly after repealing it," McConnell said.

Asked twice by Dickerson what "rapidly" meant, McConnell said "very quickly," and "quickly."

"The first step will be taken in the Senate by the end of this week, yes. And then it’ll go over to the House," McConnell said.

In an op-ed on the Fox News website Monday, McConnell said lawmakers would take on a replacement "in manageable pieces," but again avoided any specific timeline.

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, also appearing on Face the Nation Sunday, echoed McConnell's comments by saying an Obamacare replacement was "going to happen as quickly as possible."

"I will tell you that it would be ideal if we could do it all in one big action. But look. It may take time to get all the elements of the replace in place," Priebus said, adding that some parts of the eventual GOP replacement might require 60 votes.

"I mean, if you can get 60 votes, you know, within a few weeks and get all of those elements of Rand Paul’s bill into place, that would be great," Priebus said. "But I think we all understand that things sometimes do take some time. And the full repeal and replace may take a little bit more time."

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.