After Pep Talk From Pence, GOP Lawmakers Prepare to Gut Obamacare

WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Mike Pence told Republican lawmakers Wednesday that the Trump administration will press for a fast path forward on gutting the Affordable Care Act, through a combination of legislative moves and early executive actions.In a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Pence offered an optimistic message about the path forward, according to several members present. It included the rough outline of a battle-plan for dismantling Obamacare and laying the blame for current problems in the healthcare system at the Democrats’ feet.“The big message on Obamacare is it’s not working,” said Lewisville Rep. Michael Burgess, the lone doctor of the Texas delegation, describing Republicans as the “first responders” and “rescue squad” on Obamacare. “We are going to salvage healthcare for the American people.”Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican serving as Trump’s congressional liaison, said Pence previewed some executive actions that the Trump administration may take “very soon, and it was inferred day one.”“His message today is, business as usual in Washington is over,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands.Brady, the chairman of the influential House committee that handles tax-writing, said no decisions have been made yet regarding the exact process and timing of changes to the healthcare system.Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, said Pence offered to use executive authority as part of the incoming administration’s efforts to unravel President Barack Obama’s policies.“Anything that can be done with a pen and a telephone can be undone with a pen and a telephone,” Pence said, according to Farenthold.Several members said after the meeting that new interim Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., told the lawmakers that they plan to have legislation to kill Obamacare on Trump’s desk by Feb. 20.Though Black would not confirm the exact date as she emerged from the meeting, she said the pace of work on Capitol Hill “is going to change dramatically” in the coming months.A flock of top Trump aides joined Pence at the Capitol Hill meeting, including Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, incoming director of legislative affairs Marc Short, and Pence’s chief of staff, Josh Pitcock. Pence has maintained strong relationships with dozens of Republican lawmakers dating back to his own time as an Indiana congressman, from 2003 to 2013.Despite Pence focusing the meeting on healthcare, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, said his efforts to replace Obama-era financial rules "absolutely" remains a priority for the incoming administration.“I hope and believe we’ll get something done in the first year,” Hensarling said.Later Wednesday morning, Sen. Ted Cruz teamed up with fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah to send a letter to Senate leaders, laying out the fast process and results they want to see as the healthcare debate moves forward.The trio wrote that they support efforts to gut Obamacare “within the first few weeks” of the new congressional session, which opened Tuesday, and they urged Senate leaders to include language in a budget bill “to repeal as many provisions of Obamacare as possible.”On the other end of the Capitol, Obama met with congressional Democrats, pressing them not to succumb to GOP efforts to kill some of the major legislation that passed during his tenure, including Obamacare.  Continue reading...

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