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Republicans Signal Desire to Keep Working on Health Care Reform

  • VOA News

House Speaker Paul Ryan, joined by members of the Republican leadership, speaks about getting past last week's failure to pass a health care overhaul bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 28, 2017.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are signaling a commitment to continue trying to overhaul the nation's health care system, after their push to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature program failed in dramatic fashion last week.

House leaders opted not to hold a vote on the Republican health care bill when it became clear it did not have enough support to pass.

Some opponents feared the measure would force too many people to lose health coverage, while others said it did not go far enough in reforming Obama's Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday after a meeting with Republican lawmakers that members are ready to "work together and listen together."

'Too important'

"It is just too important," he said. "Obamacare is doing too much damage to families. And so we're going to get this right, and in the meantime, we're going to do all of our other work that we came here to do."

President Donald Trump speaks at a reception for senators and their spouses in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, March 28, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks at a reception for senators and their spouses in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, March 28, 2017.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was also optimistic, saying Republicans will follow through on their promise to repeal and replace the ACA.

"Coming out of that conference I have more confidence that we will get it done," McCarthy said.

Was ready to move on

President Donald Trump initially reacted to Friday's failure by saying he was ready to move on to other priorities such as tax reform. But he has continued to criticize the current system and on Tuesday said he was sure there will be reforms.

"I know that we're all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one. So I have no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly," he said at a White House reception with a group of both Democratic and Republican senators.

Neither Trump nor the House leaders gave an indication about when a new health care bill would be ready for action. And along with their positive statements Tuesday there were still mixed signals about how much of a priority health care is to Republicans right now.

FILE - President Donald Trump, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, left, and Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the media regarding the health care reform bill, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, March 24, 2017.
FILE - President Donald Trump, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, left, and Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the media regarding the health care reform bill, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, March 24, 2017.

Trump's legislative affairs director, Marc Short, said in an interview with the Associated Press that the president would look to sign legislation if it passed Congress and reached his desk, but that "at this time today, there are other things that we have on our priority list that we're moving on to."

Democrats hail the ACA for bringing health insurance to 20 million people who previously lacked coverage. Republicans say the program is too costly and unfairly forces Americans to purchase insurance or face a tax penalty.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Democrats should be happy about the Republican failure because it leaves their system in place.

"We believe it will not work out well, but we'll see," McConnell said.

His comments are similar in sentiment to a tweet Trump wrote Saturday predicting "Obamacare will explode."

Republican costs

The independent Congressional Budget Office concluded that 24 million Americans would lose their health care coverage over the next decade if the Republican plan was approved.

Trump and Republican leaders contended their plan, unlike Obamacare, will give people access to buy the coverage that meets their needs and that they can afford.

Obama repeatedly said in defending his program that if anyone, including Republicans, came up with a better plan, then he would support it.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her colleagues Tuesday thanking them for protecting the ACA from what she called the "Republican's monstrosity of a bill," and said they must ensure the Trump administration does not "sabotage" the program out of spite.

Pelosi further called on Democratic lawmakers to submit as soon as possible any suggestions they have for improving the ACA.

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