WASHINGTON ― The Republican push to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act ― with no replacement in sight ― is starting to look like an Abbott and Costello comedy skit, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) charged Thursday.
Schumer’s comments came after President-elect Donald Trump said in an interview that he expects a repeal vote next week to be followed “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter” with a replacement for Obamacare, and 10 Republican senators started pushing for a slower approach.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled Tuesday that he still planned to move full speed ahead on a repeal effort that would leave some 30 million Americans without health insurance.
The conflicting approaches seemed to amuse Schumer, who has warned repeatedly that Republicans are stepping into a trap by trying to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature law.
“There’s a little bit of onus on the president-elect,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill. “What’s his replacement plan? He doesn’t seem to have one either, so it’s sort of a little like Abbott and Costello. Each of them says, ‘We must repeal and replace’ and then says, ‘You come up with the plan,’” Schumer said, pointing two fingers in opposite directions for effect.
On Monday, half a dozen Republican senators called for slowing down the repeal process. Five of them proposed an amendment that would give committees until March 3 to come up with recommendations for repeal legislation, pushing back the original, nonbinding Jan. 27 deadline. Schumer laughed at the idea that Democrats would support such an amendment even if it meant every stage of the repeal process would be delayed by roughly one month.
“The Republicans have created this stew that they’re in,” Schumer said. “They can debate among themselves but they have to be united on a plan. We’re not going to get into these internecine fights, that’s their business.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said rank-and-file Republicans in the House and Senate are just trying to get some answers, but leadership in the upper chamber continues to be “vague” about the plan going forward.
“There are a number of senators who would like to see what the future is going to be and would like to try to do [replacement] simultaneously if possible,” Corker told reporters on Tuesday.
Corker said he introduced the amendment extending the Jan. 27 deadline for committees “to ensure that time is taken.” A number of Republicans would like to see Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) confirmed and in place as Health and Human Services secretary before moving quickly on a repeal.
Coming out of a weekly party lunch, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Republicans are going in too many directions at the moment.
“I think we have a lot of leaders,” Scott said, when asked if Trump or others needed to weigh in more.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of party leadership, expressed concern that Trump’s comments would hurt Republicans from a “messaging standpoint.”
“I could see us doing in the first reconciliation vehicle elements, features of a replacement and I’m sort of hopeful we’ll be able to deliver on that,” he added.
Despite the competing timelines offered by Republicans, McConnell has no plans to slow down.
“I can tell you that we will be through with the Obamacare repeal resolution this week,” he said. “We’re working on what comes next. As I’ve said we’re going to be involved with the administration the House and the Senate in crafting a package that we can all agree on.”