Politics & Government

Repealing Obamacare will top Senate’s 2017 agenda

Vice President-elect Mike Pence talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as they walk on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as they walk on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday. AP

Starting the process of repealing Obamacare will be the Senate’s “first item in the new year,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

The Kentucky Republican, speaking after GOP senators met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Democrats had a quick response: “Bring it on,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become the Senate Democratic leader next year. Republicans have not been able to agree on exactly how to replace the current system.

McConnell and other Republicans on Tuesday had few precise details of how or when they’d replace the 6 1/2-year-old Affordable Care Act.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, offered some principles.

After repeal, Thune said, “We will go about the process of replacing in a step-by-step way the Obamacare provisions that we think have caused the most damage and put in place reforms that we think will really work.”

When we come back January 3rd, we'll be moving to the Obamacare replacement resolution

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to reporters Tuesday

Among the principles the GOP plans to follow are that states should have more control over health care issues and “there ought to be more patients and doctors who are in control.”

Other ideas: “There ought to be a patient-centered choice involved in this. In other words, more competition that gives people in this country more choices.”

Schumer scoffed at all this.

“We're certainly not going to be part of this idea of repeal and put nothing in its place,” he said.

Some Republicans have said that once Obamacare is repealed, there could be a transition period to a new system. Repealing the current system, they argue, would pressure Democrats into finding alternatives.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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