Republicans took a first step early Thursday to repeal Obamacare, but they still have a long way to go and no clear road map for fulfilling their promise to gut and replace the healthcare law.
Senate Republicans narrowly approved a budget package, 51-48, with the House set to vote Friday. Approval would set in place a process for an eventual vote – in weeks or months — on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
But the timeline remains a work in progress, in part because Republicans have not agreed on how to replace Obamacare, and that makes lawmakers increasingly nervous that repealing it will cause constituents to lose their health coverage.
President-elect Donald Trump promised the solution will come "simultaneously" — "most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably, the same day, could be the same hour."
But Republican leaders in Congress, where the party holds the majority in the House and Senate, know all too well it’s a promise that’s easier said than kept.
They have been trying for six years to devise a viable alternative to Obamacare, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has only promised that repeal and replace will happen "this year."
Even though Trump said Wednesday that his team would submit a "plan" once his pick to run the Health and Human Services Department, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) , is confirmed, GOP aides are increasingly suggesting another course of action.
They say the replacement will not be a single bill, but a series of actions — some made through regulatory changes at HHS, others by Trump’s executive actions, and some in legislation — to build a new healthcare system.
That process could drag throughout 2017, with many of the changes not expected to be phased in for several years to ease the transition.
As senators pulled an all-night session into Thursday, they approved the first step — a budget blueprint that instructs committees to begin working on a repeal bill.
Republicans have approved countless bills to repeal Obamacare before, but their off-the-shelf model needs some fine-tuning now that it has a chance under Trump to become law, they said.
The Senate set a Jan. 27 deadline for the committees to produce the new Obamacare repeal bill, but aides cautioned that date is not binding. It may slip.
Delays caused some Republicans to balk, including those from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, while others pushed for more time to craft alternatives.
Several House Republicans are threatening to withhold their votes Friday unless more concrete plans are in place, putting passage of the budget package in question.
GOP leaders assured the Freedom Caucus there would be both repeal and replace legislation at almost the same time, said Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
That’s in line what Trump promised, but may not get sorted out until at least February.
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This article was sourced from http://newsjuly2016.com