President Donald Trump said on Friday morning that if Senate Republicans can’t get behind their leadership’s health care bill, then they should just repeal the Affordable Care Act right away and work on its replacement later.
Trump made the suggestion in a tweet. As always, it’s difficult to know how seriously to take the comment ― or whether to take it seriously at all.
Senate Republicans are still debating what to do with the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their proposal to unwind reforms of the private insurance market and make deep cuts to Medicaid. GOP leaders, unable to rally 50 votes for the plan this week as they had originally hoped, are now modifying the proposal and have said they aim to take it up again ― and pass it ― once the Senate returns from its July 4 recess.
Trump’s tweet seemed to be endorsing an idea that Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) floated minutes earlier on Fox News and, according to the The Wall Street Journal, in a formal letter to the White House ― that if Senate leaders can’t assemble a majority by July 10, they should try a different strategy: Vote to repeal the bill outright, or at least strip its funding, and then spend a month in non-stop hearings and negotiations to hammer out a deal on a new coverage scheme.
The idea of taking one vote to repeal the law, with plans to come up with a replacement afterwards, is not new.
It’s actually the strategy GOP leaders originally planned to pursue following the November election. They ditched that plan in January, very much with Trump’s support, partly in response to objections from their own members who were nervous about voting to take insurance away from many millions of people with no guarantee of what coverage, if any, those people would get instead.
That objection would apply just as forcefully today and it’s unclear why Republican senators who felt that way in January would be more inclined to support it now, particularly since polls show the public is becoming more and more opposed to repeal and less and less interested in getting rid of Obamacare.
That doesn’t make Trump’s tweet inconsequential.
Uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act ― and, in particular, the administration’s willingness to manage the program ― has spooked insurers, causing them to seek higher premium increases next year and in some cases withdraw from markets altogether.
Tweets like Friday morning’s one won’t exactly dispel those feelings.