WASHINGTON (Reuters)—The U.S. House of Representatives‘ Republican leader said on Tuesday that legislation to replace former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law will be completed this year, trying to assuage concerns that the party is retreating from its campaign promise to dismantle Obamacare.
“We are going to be done legislating with respect to healthcare and Obamacare this year,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told a news briefing.
“The question is how long does it take to implement the full replacement of Obamacare,” he said, indicating that that could take longer.
“We are going to be going out and talking about what our plan is. . . . We hope to get this done as fast as possible,” he said.
Ryan was responding to questions about Republican President Donald Trump’s weekend interview with Fox News in which he said it might take until next year to replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
“Maybe it’ll take ’til sometime into next year,” Trump told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly in an interview.
Ryan said it was important to get Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as soon as possible, so that he too can “get to work with replacing” the 2010 healthcare law. Price is expected to be confirmed by the Senate later this week.
Ryan also said he was not bothered by recent protests against dismantling Obamacare that have taken place at some Republican lawmakers’ meetings with constituents. “Peaceful protests are something we honor in this country,” he said.
Trump and congressional Republicans campaigned on a promise to dismantle the 2010 healthcare law, which they consider federal government overreach. The law has enabled up to 20 million previously uninsured Americans to obtain health coverage.
But while Republicans voted last month to start the process of scrapping Obamacare, they missed a target date of Jan. 27 to begin drafting legislation to do so, raising some doubts about how quickly they will be able to undo the complicated law. They have the majority in Congress.
At a recent congressional retreat, Republican leaders told lawmakers they hoped Congress would legislate the repeal by March or April, as part of a process known as budget reconciliation. Some Republicans, however, have questioned the wisdom of using the budget process.
“What we’ve said all along, we’re going to start the process using budget reconciliation. But it’s not going to be all in one piece of legislation. There will be multiple steps,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said on Monday.