Obamacare repeal is stuck between a rock and a hard place

Uh-oh.

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Obamacare repeal crusade is falling apart thanks to GOP infighting, just four weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency. As constituents across the country flood GOP townhalls, mailboxes, and phone lines to demand the preservation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), impatient conservatives are pressuring House Speaker Paul Ryan ((R-WI) to scrap the law without a replacement strategy — leaving the future of repeal stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On Monday, 35 out of 40 members of the House Freedom Caucus, a hardline conservative body with Tea Party leanings, voted in favor of rapid repeal. But the GOP has yet to come up with an ACA replacement, which means the caucus prefers to risk millions of Americans’ access to health insurance as opposed to waiting until a new health insurance plan is developed and implemented.

The hardliners reportedly want to eviscerate individual and employer mandates, as well as Medicaid expansion — much like the repeal bill that made its way through the House in 2015 — with no replacement option.

“What the Senate passed in October 2015 is the best starting place…,” Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), chairman of the hard-right Republican Study Committee, said on Monday night. “Let’s get that on that on the books; then we can move quickly after that to put in replacement components.”

With the Freedom Caucus vote, GOP lawmakers revealed that they’re officially at odds with Ryan, who favors a more cautious repeal effort that involves a simultaneous replacement plan. On Tuesday, Ryan reiterated his intention to take it “step-by-step.”

The vote also signals a critical breakdown within the GOP leadership at a time when constituents are pushing hard against Republican lawmakers in favor of gutting affordable health care.

Voters are showing up to town halls en masse to demand that Obamacare stay intact. Representatives are so inundated with calls, visitors, and mail that they’re literally in hiding.

Last week, Jason Chaffetz cut a Utah town hall meeting short after he was confronted by angry protesters, hundreds of whom criticized his adversarial stance on Obamacare and yelled “Do your job!” The next day, a crowd of protesters at a Florida town hall shouted down Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who brought up “death panels” in his criticism of the ACA.

Similar actions are anticipated across the country, and there’s still no sign that Republicans have a viable replacement option.

As Congress dukes it out, there’s no indication that Trump is closer to having a comprehensive plan.

Last February, he promised Americans that they’d have “great health care for a fraction of the price,” “immediately, fast, quick.” But he broke that promise in Week 3 of his presidency, when he told Bill O’Reilly that a new health care plan wouldn’t surface “until some time into next year.”