The Slatest

House GOP to Vote to Repeal Obamacare, Start Finally Thinking About How to Replace It

OK, but then what?

Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

House Republicans are planning to, yet again, vote to repeal all of Obamacare next week. The vote will be the fourth time the lower chamber has attempted to kill the law in its entirety since Republicans took control of the House in 2011. (That number climbs by three if you count the annual budget process.) The chamber has held roughly 50 other votes during that time to remove or alter specific portions of the legislation.

So, same old story then? Not exactly. According to a memo House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent to rank-and-file Republicans this week, the legislation in question will “include instruction to the relevant committees to develop our patient-centered health care reforms.” Translation: The bill will tell House committees to finally get to work hammering out the second half of the “repeal and replace” plan that Republicans have been campaigning on since 2010.

To be clear, there are Republican alternatives out there, just none that the party as a whole has rallied around. Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the new chairman of the Finance Committee, has been pushing a bill he authored with Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) that he claims would “reduce costs by harnessing market forces and increase access to affordable, high-quality care.” Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio are said to be working on their own alternative as well.

Still, it’s telling that GOP leaders have avoided putting their members on record on exactly how they’d replace the president’s landmark reforms. Without a specific alternative, the GOP can stay on the offensive against Obamacare; with one, they’d have to devote at least some energy to defending their alternative. Republicans also know that it will take a miracle for them to craft a proposal that conservatives love nearly as much as they hate the president’s law.

Next week’s vote will formally start the replace process, allowing House Republicans to tout their progress. It remains to be seen, though, if or when the GOP will finalize a plan. Unsurprisingly, McCarthy’s memo included no mention of setting a deadline for the relevant committees to finish their work.