- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2017

President Trump may be hinting at a deal with Democrats on health care, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he isn’t interested in that, saying it would be better to rally the GOP troops around a conservative plan that scraps Obamacare.

“I don’t want that to happen,” Mr. Ryan told CBS’ “This Morning.” “You know why? I want a patient-centered system. I don’t want government running health care. The government shouldn’t tell you what you must do with your life, with your healthcare. We should give people choices.”  

The House GOP’s first attempt at health reform ended in embarrassing defeat last week. 

Mr. Ryan scheduled a vote and then canceled it at the last moment, after it became clear he didn’t have enough support from within his own conference for a bill that scrapped Obamacare’s individual mandate and taxes and replaced its generous subsidies with age-based tax credits, while reining in and capping federal spending on Medicaid coverage for the poor.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan both initially said they were moving on, yet the speaker reversed course earlier this week, saying it was worth a second shot.

“We’re not going to give up after seven years of dealing with this, after running on a plan all of last year, translating that plan into legislation, which is what this is,” Mr. Ryan told CBS.

Yet Mr. Trump is sending mixed signals. He told Senate Democrats late Tuesday that reaching a deal on health care would be easy and happen “very quickly,” though the White House hasn’t ruled out another crack at killing the law.

Democrats told Mr. Trump on Wednesday they’re ready to negotiate fixes to Obamacare, which suffers from rising premiums and dwindling choices on its insurance exchanges, but only if Republicans give up on repeal.

They seized on the speaker’s comments Thursday as disappointing and “tone deaf” to the will of the American people.

“I hope that as Congress begins consideration of the budget, tax reform, and other important legislation, Speaker Ryan and House Republicans will reconsider their ‘go it alone’ governing strategy and work with Democrats to find consensus on the big issues we face,” said Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “I hope the speaker will worry less about his narrow political interest and more about the daily lives of middle-class Americans, as he is the speaker of the entire House of Representatives, not just the Republican Conference.”

Mr. Ryan said he’s all for bipartisanship, but Democrats will never agree to the Republicans’ core campaign promise.

“They’re not going to help us repeal Obamacare. That’s my point,” Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Ryan said his GOP conference can still rally around a plan, though he is willing to make improvements to the existing legislation to get people to “yes.”

It’s unclear what changes could get all sides to agree. The plan failed because of a wide rift between hardline conservatives, who said it didn’t kill enough of Obamacare to bring down premiums, and centrists who felt it would imperil coverage for the sick and needy.

Republicans had planned to send Mr. Trump  an Obamacare repeal bill by the Easter recess. 

Instead, they are holding informal talks on a way forward without setting a date to get it done, even as Mr. Ryan says insurers and consumers need to be rescued from an unstable market.

“This is too big of an issue to not get right,” Mr. Ryan said. “So I’m not going to put some kind of artificial deadline on saving the American health care system from an oncoming collapse.”


• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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