Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Tuesday threw cold water on remarks from top Republicans that legislation the Congressional Budget Office gave a dreadful score to is just one of three phases in the process of repealing and replacing Obamacare.
“There is no three-phase process. There is no three-step plan. That is just political talk. It’s just politicians engaging in spin,” Cotton told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Republicans have said that after passing the House GOP’s repeal bill, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price plans to follow up with regulations and Congress plans to pass another bill with additional reforms that would need to net 60 votes in the Senate.
During a Tuesday morning interview on NBC’s “Today,” Price mentioned this three-part plan. He argued the CBO report that projects 24 million people will lose insurance by 2026 under the bill is incomplete because it does not take into account the other two steps in the process.
“What the report looked at was only one third of our plan. And that’s why you can’t look at this in isolation,” Price said. “The fact of the matter is, with our whole plan, every single American will have access to coverage.”
However, Cotton argued that Republicans cannot rely on either subsequent regulations or another piece of legislation. He said that regulations will be “subject to court challenge, and therefore, perhaps the whims of the most liberal judge in America.” And he argued that the third, legislative step will never happen, describing it as “some mythical legislation in the future that is going to garner Democratic support and help us get over 60 votes in the Senate.”
“If we had those Democratic votes, we wouldn’t need three steps. We would just be doing that right now on this legislation altogether,” Cotton told Hewitt. “That’s why it’s so important that we get this legislation right, because there is no step three. And step two is not completely under our control.”
Cotton called on House Republicans to slow down their process for repealing and replacing Obamacare. He also urged the House to make changes to the legislation before it reaches the Senate.
The Arkansas senator said that he does not believe the CBO’s projection will fully play out, saying “the CBO director is not Moses.” He argued that the CBO has “pretty consistently overestimated” Obamacare’s coverage, even though experts say the CBO’s projections on insurance coverage and premiums under Obamacare turned out to be fairly accurate.
But he did say that the CBO is “directionally correct” on the impact of the Republican plan.
“They’re right that coverage levels will go down in the coming years under the House bill. They’re also right, I’m afraid, that insurance premiums will continue to go up in the near term, for three to four years, before they start perhaps falling in the long term,” he said. “However, I suspect that the political consequences of those near term changes means that the long term will never actually arrive.”