In another clash of transition priorities, President Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will make dueling pitches to Congress Wednesday over the fate of Obamacare, with the Republican urging lawmakers to roll back regulations the incoming administration contends are smothering businesses.
As Senate Republicans in the new Congress took the first step Tuesday toward repealing the health care law, Mr. Pence said getting rid of the Affordable Care Act is among the new administration’s top priorities for rebuilding a stronger economy.
“We’re focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We look forward to legislation that will give us the tools to roll back the avalanche of red tape and regulation that have been stifling American jobs,” Mr. Pence told reporters at Trump transition headquarters in New York.
Mr. Pence will meet with House Republican leaders at the Capitol Wednesday to encourage that effort on the same day that Mr. Obama also will make a rare visit to Capitol Hill to strategize with Democratic lawmakers on how to save his signature law.
Mr. Obama will present a case for entitlements, telling Democrats that they need to promote the law’s benefits with their constituents and to argue that Obamacare is helping to extend the solvency of Medicare and Medicaid.
“The president’s message to them is that they should be out there telling the stories of their constituents who are benefiting from this law,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “I think that’s certainly the most important thing they can do.”
Mr. Earnest also said repealing the health care law would have “a terribly negative impact on Medicare and Medicaid.”
“There are a lot of strong, persuasive arguments to be made that would, I think, persuade many Americans that the idea of tearing down the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea,” he said.
President-elect Donald Trump called Obamacare a “lousy health care” law on Tuesday, but he hasn’t said how he wants to repeal and replace it.
Republicans are debating whether to eliminate taxes that have helped to subsidize the insurance for more than 20 million people who previously lacked it.
Thirty-one states have expanded Medicaid through Obamacare.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said the introduction of a Senate resolution Tuesday to repeal Obamacare is “the first step toward relief for Americans struggling” under the law.
“This resolution sets the stage for repeal followed by a stable transition to a better health care system,” Mr. Ryan said. “Our goal is to ensure that patients will be in control of their health care and have greater access to quality, affordable coverage.”
Mr. Obama’s plotting with Democrats to defend Obamacare so near the end of his presidency suggests that he will be actively working against Mr. Trump after he leaves office — highly unusual for an ex-president. In his weekly address last weekend, Mr. Obama said he will remain involved in his priorities.
“As I prepare to take on the even more important role of citizen, know that I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure that this country forever strives to live up to the incredible promise of our founding — that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve every chance to live out our dreams,” he said.
Mr. Earnest said if Republicans repeal Obamacare, “they’ll be hastening the demise of Medicare that millions of seniors rely upon for their basic health care needs.”
“The president’s deeply concerned about the impact that this Republican action could have,” he said. “He is also concerned about this Republican tactic of repeal and delay that ultimately is nothing more than just bait and switch.”
The president’s spokesman said repealing the law without an alternative in place is “not a responsible way to govern.”
“Democrats are, however, interested in looking out for working people in this country, no one more so than the Democratic president of the United States,” he said. “That’s what they’ll be there to talk about, and the president’s message will be to encourage them in that fight, and to offer his own insight about the most effective way to engage in that fight.”