Massie joins Paul in voting against bill to start Obamacare repeal; McConnell won’t say what he has in mind for Medicaid expansion

Kentucky Health News

One Kentucky congressman was among the nine House Republicans who voted against a budget resolution that is the new Congress’s first step toward repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Massie (Breitbart.com photo)

Rep. Thomas Massie of Vanceburg “said he voted against the budget resolution because of the estimated $9.7 trillion it would add to the national debt,” Lindsey McPherson reports for The Hill. “He said his fiscal conservative colleagues who voted ‘yes’ because they only saw the budget as a vehicle to get to Obamacare repeal will regret it.”

“We got a Category 5 hurricane coming when you have to reduce to practice the differences between Donald Trump’s agenda and [House Speaker] Paul Ryan’s agenda,” he said. “I think there are going to be some very confusing votes in here.”

The resolution passed 227-198, with all Democrats opposed. The Republicans against it were “a mixed bag,” The Hill reports: “four members of the moderate Tuesday Group —  Charlie Dent and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, John Katko of New York and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, and two members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, Justin Amash of Michigan and Raul Labrador of Idaho.” The others were Massie, North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones and California Rep. Tom McClintock, “all of whom are conservatives but not members of the Freedom Caucus.”

When the session opened with the vote for speaker, Massie was the only member who voted for Amash, who is chair of their libertarian-oriented Liberty Caucus. Amash called the resolution “the worst budget we’ve had since I’ve been in Congress. . . .  We can put together a good budget and also repeal Obamacare.”

The resolution is not binding but provides a vehicle for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to prevent a Democratic filibuster against repealing parts of the health-reform law that relate to spending and taxes. It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster and Republicans have 52 senators.

Massie, Amash and Paul (Photo via imgdex.com)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the only Republican senator to vote against the resolution, citing concerns similar to Massie’s and saying it would add $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. He unsuccessfully pressed the House Freedom Caucus to stand against it.

After that meeting, Massie challenged Republican leaders’ argument that the resolution is merely a vehicle to repeal Obamacare: “If they want to tell us these are pretend numbers, then why do your pretend numbers not even balance?”

Massie told Bridget Bowman of Roll Call that the episode showed why he opposes Ryan and other leaders.
“We’re given a lose-lose proposition,” he said. “You either vote to keep Obamacare or you vote to add $10 trillion to the budget when in fact it would be so easy to have a conservative budget that repeals Obamacare.”

Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post writes, “It will now only get harder for Republicans,” DeBonis writes. “They must assemble a viable replacement for a law that has expanded health insurance coverage to roughly 20 million Americans and eliminated unpopular insurance industry practices, such as lifetime coverage caps and widespread refusal to cover already-sick individuals.

Republican leaders have instead focused on the Affordable Care Act’s flaws — rising premiums for plans sold in state marketplaces, high deductibles and burdensome taxes. GOP lawmakers are set to gather in Philadelphia later this month to hash out a more complete alternative.”

Several senators from states that expanded the Medicaid program with federal money through the reform law want to see its replacement before voting on the repeal. Kentucky is one of the states that has benefited most from the law, adding more than 400,000 people to Medicaid and cutting by more than half the percentage of Kentuckians without health insurance.

McConnell, in a news release after the Senate vote, mentioned various problems with private insurance under Obamacare but said nothing about Medicaid. Asked what he plans to do with the Medicaid expansion, his spokesman, Robert Steurer, replied via email, “Sen. McConnell will have lots more to say about this issue
in the coming weeks.”

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