Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed growing conservative opposition to his Obamacare alternative Tuesday, even as his allies simmer over the far-right’s bid to derail GOP leadership’s repeal strategy.
The Wisconsin Republican denied at a press conference that his conference was fracturing over how to replace the health law and would not commit to tweaking his draft proposal to accommodate hard-liners.
“This is a plan that we are all working on together: the House, the Senate and the White House, so there aren’t rival plans here,” Ryan said when asked about numerous conservatives vowing to oppose his bill. “We’re all working on this together with the administration.”
Conservatives would beg to differ. The leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee and three of the most conservative Senators — Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah) — have come out against a leaked draft of the House bill. They claim to have the numbers to block the proposal, and they’re trying to advance their own legislation.
The spike in the right’s opposition, which peaked just 24 hours before President Donald Trump will address Congress, has infuriated many rank-in-file Republicans eager to advance a repeal bill. One lawmaker coming out of a closed-door GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning called conservatives “hypocrites” for backing health care tax credits — a key provision of leadership’s plan — when HHS Secretary Tom Price proposed them as a congressman.
Conservatives now warn the tax credits will become a “fourth entitlement.” Supporters argue that tax credits for people who don’t get insurance through their employer are necessary because those who do already get a tax benefit. Ryan says the credits end what he called “discrimination in the tax code” against people who choose to work jobs that don’t provide insurance.
Ryan allies also say conservatives are borrowing logic from Democrats who typically argue the cost of tax cuts should be paid for.
“Their argument is in lock step with Bernie [Sanders] — this notion that the money in a tax credit belongs to the government, not the individuals,” steamed one Republican.
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) took a more measured tone when asked about opposition, saying House Republicans have “talked about advanced tax credits” for a long time.
“I think they’re going to be absolutely necessary to act as bridge to those on the individual market,” Ross said. “You can’t go cold turkey and expect there to be availability and affordability” of health care.
Ryan, for his part, also emphasized during his press conference that Republicans have been running on the core principles of his plan for over a year and his proposal “look[s] a lot like the Price plan, which was considered the conservative gold standard at the time last year.”
“Many conservatives cosponsored that plan,” he said. “That plan looks a lot like what we’re looking at right now.”
During the closed-door meeting, Ryan encouraged his colleagues to stick together and told them Trump’s “got our back” on the idea, according to a source in the room. Committees with jurisdiction of the repeal-replace bill will begin marking up the proposal next week. Senate Republicans are set to meet Wednesday to discuss the House plan.