- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

House Republican leaders pledged Tuesday to revive efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, even predicting that Democrats who celebrated the GOP’s stumbles wouldn’t be laughing for long.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan didn’t outline a timetable for finding a solution, however, saying he wanted to “get it right” after a GOP rebellion forced him to pull a White House-backed plan Friday.

He said members who balked at the initial plan still want to get to “yes” on the second go-around, after all sides had three days to cool off.

“We’re not going to retrench into our corners or put up dividing lines. Today, we broke down many of those dividing lines within our conference,” Mr. Ryan said after a closed-door meeting with GOP troops. “There’s too much at stake to get bogged down in all that.”

President Trump told Mr. Ryan to abort the House GOP’s first attempt at repeal last week, after it was clear they didn’t have the votes.

Too many conservatives said the bill wouldn’t kill enough of Obamacare and slash premiums, while centrists said it imperiled coverage for older Americans and the needy.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Democrats who celebrated the failed vote would come to regret it.

“I think their celebration is premature because I think we’re closer today to repealing Obamacare than we’ve ever been before, and surely even closer than we were Friday. So we’re going to keep working,” Mr. Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said.

The White House and Senate on Tuesday sounded less enthusiastic about a redo, however, and House leaders didn’t outline a clear path forward.

“Finding a solution is still elusive,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who wrote much of the initial plan.

Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican and member of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, told multiple news outlets he planned to file a discharge petition to force a floor vote on straight repeal, if Obamacare isn’t dealt with in the coming weeks. The effort would require signatures from a majority of the House, however.

For his part, Mr. Trump has said he would like to force Democrats to the negotiation table by allowing Obamacare to “implode,” while moving on to tax reform and other agenda items.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration is discussing its options with GOP leaders, though it isn’t “actively planning an immediate strategy” at this point, as the president remains open to viewpoints from both parties.

They’re still contending with the “balancing act” that doomed the first effort, in which efforts to mollify restive conservatives angered centrists who balked after budget scorekeepers said the plan would result in 24 million fewer people holding insurance after a decade.

“Can you add additional folks on without pushing additional folks off?” Mr. Spicer said, describing the test moving forward.

At the Capitol, Mr. Ryan said the GOP can’t afford to become a “factionalized majority” that paralyzes itself in the face of tough tasks.

“I want us to become a unified majority, and that means we’re going to sit down and talk things out until we get there and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.

Mr. Ryan said Obamacare is still “collapsing,” so it is important to signal their intentions to insurers who will have to set their rates in the coming months.

“Obamacare is doing too much damage to families. And so, we’re going to get this right,” Mr. Ryan said. “And in the meantime, we’re going to do all of our other work that we came here to do.”

That includes an historic effort to overhaul the tax code, so work on health care will have to be done along a parallel track.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican who worked on tax portions of the health care plan, said Monday he is “turning the page” to tax reform and that Senate Republicans can take up health care if they please.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell showed no signs of picking up the ball Tuesday, saying the inability to pass something in the House left the country “where the Democrats wanted us to be, which is with the status quo.”

“We’re just going to have to see how that works out,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We believe it will not work out well.”

Senate Minority Charles E. Schumer said Democrats plan to outline ways to improve on Obamacare, which extended coverage to more than 20 million people but suffers from rising premiums and dwindling choices on its web-based insurance exchanges.

Mr. Schumer said Democrats will refuse to work with Republicans, however, if they continue to pursue repeal.

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