Recordings of closed sessions at the Republican policy retreat in Philadelphia this week were sent late Thursday to The Post and several other news outlets from an anonymous email address. The remarks of all lawmakers quoted in this article were confirmed by their offices or by the lawmakers themselves.
“Our goal, in my opinion, should be not a quick fix. We can do it rapidly — but not a quick fix,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “We want a long-term solution that lowers costs.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) warned his colleagues that the estimated budget savings from repealing Obamacare — which Republicans say could approach a half-trillion dollars — would be needed to fund the costs of setting up a replacement. “This is going to be what we’ll need to be able to move to that transition,” he said.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) worried that one idea floated by Republicans — a refundable tax credit — would not work for middle-class families that cannot afford to prepay their premiums and wait for a tax refund.
Republicans have also discussed the idea of generating revenue for their plan by taking aim at deductions that allow most Americans to get health insurance through their employers without paying extra taxes on it. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who has drafted his own bill to reform the Affordable Care Act, said in response, “It sounds like we are going to be raising taxes on the middle class in order to pay for these new credits.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), who chairs a key tax-writing subcommittee, countered, “I don’t see it that way,” adding that there is “a tax break on employer-sponsored health care and nowhere else” equal to $3.6 trillion over 10 years.
“Could you unlock just a small portion at the top to be able to give that freedom [to self-employed Americans]? That is the question,” Brady said.
Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.), a freshman congressman from the Hudson Valley, warned strongly against using the repeal of the ACA to also defund Planned Parenthood. “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill,” he said. “If you want to do it somewhere else, I have no problem, but I think we are creating a political minefield for ourselves — House and Senate.”
The concerns of rank-and-file lawmakers appeared to be at odds with key congressional leaders and Andrew Bremberg, a top domestic policy adviser to Trump, who have laid out plans to repeal the ACA using a fast-track legislative process and executive actions from the administration. However, these leaders acknowledged in Thursday’s meeting, as they have before, that Obamacare cannot be fully undone — or replaced — without Democratic cooperation.
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