JUDY WOODRUFF: Leading Republicans in the House of Representatives aim to pass their Obamacare replacement bill by the end of the month.
But the analysis of the legislation from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office yesterday may have complicated that timeline.
For some of the party’s conservatives, the bill still has too much of the Affordable Care Act left in it. For some of its moderates, the number of people the bill wouldn’t provide coverage for is cause for alarm. Today, the White House and some leading Republicans left the door open to change.
From both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue today, talk of amending the House Republican health care bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke at the Capitol.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: It will be open to amendment in Senate, like all reconciliation bills are. We’re anxious to get past the status quo.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At almost the same time, White House spokesman Sean Spicer also sounded a note of compromise.
SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: If you can come with a good idea that will strengthen this bill that will benefit American patients, we will do it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this after Monday’s report from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO says the GOP plan would leave 14 million fewer people insured by next year, and a total of 24 million fewer by 2026. It would also bring savings that would cut federal deficits by $337 billion over that time frame.
The White House sent out Budget Director Mick Mulvaney this morning to challenge the CBO’s estimates of the uninsured.
MICK MULVANEY, White House Budget Director: I don’t believe the facts are correct. I’m saying that because of a track record of the CBO being wrong before, and we believe the CBO is wrong now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On the other hand, House Speaker Paul Ryan embraced the analysis, saying it exceeded his expectations. But hard-line conservatives in Ryan’s caucus, including Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, blamed Ryan for rushing the bill through the House.
REP. JIM JORDAN, R-Ohio: This bill doesn’t unite Republicans. This bill doesn’t bring down the cost of premiums.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Several Senate Republicans also warned the bill needs reworking, among them, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis:
SEN. THOM TILLIS, R-N.C.: The bill right now, we have questions that we have to have answered. Again, this is not just about this House bill. It’s series of things that we have to accomplish in the coming months to solve the problem of the failure of Obamacare.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office figures bolstered Democrats’ opposition to the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: It’s vintage Donald Trump. Talks like a populist, but when he acts, it’s hard-right, favoring the special interests, and hurting the middle class and those trying to get there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Democratic leaders brought out people who said they have benefited from Obamacare.
PAULA CHENEVEY, Obamacare Supporter: The solution is not to take away care. The solution is to find a better way of providing that care. I’m not asking for something for free. I’m just trying to stay alive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The GOP bill will next head to the House Budget and Rules Committees.
Joining me now, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who has expressed some reservations about the bill, Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida.
Representative Yoho, welcome to the program.
What are your reservations, and could you support the bill as it is right now?
REP. TED YOHO, R-Fla.: Thanks, Judy, for having me.
My reservations are many. I like the direction we’re moving in, but I could not support the bill as it is right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why not?
REP. TED YOHO: There are several things.
One is the refundable tax credits. What that means is the government has to take money from us, the taxpayers, and give it back. It’s a government program. And what I have seen with the government programs in my short period of time up here, but being a citizen for almost 62 years come April, is a government program. They tend to get bigger and bigger, and they’re more — they’re less efficient.
And any time you give control to the government, it costs more money and they’re less efficient. And I think we have seen this over and over again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that.
REP. TED YOHO: One of the other things is a work requirement for able-bodied citizens without dependents, that they’re either looking for work or they’re getting work, they’re getting reeducated or they’re doing community service, I think this is a must.
If not you’re going to have growth of people on the Medicaid system.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, I want to ask you what you — about what you mentioned first, the tax — refundable tax credit, because Speaker Ryan, as you may know, is arguing that that’s not an entitlement.
He says letting people keep more of their own money and doing what they want with it is not an entitlement. He said it’s simply letting them have the freedom to purchase a plan that they feel is best without the government forcing them to buy insurance.
REP. TED YOHO: Well, I agree with getting rid of the mandates, because, again, it goes back to, if government can mandate what you have to do, and then they fine you with a fee for not doing it, what else can they do in the future, you know, if the government says you should do this or that?
I’m all in favor of having people keep more of their money. I’m in favor of the tax credits, not the refundable ones that go back to buy insurance or go into people’s health savings account. Again, I’m OK with the tax credits where you can write off the cost of your health insurance if you’re an individual, because that’s incentivizing people to do that, which we want them to be, and that’s to be responsible for their health care.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think this bill could be changed, amended in the direction that your concerns are?
I’m asking because, in the Senate, the concerns seem to be in the other direction. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican from Arkansas, is saying he is worried that the bill doesn’t cover enough people who need care. In other words, the pushes and pull seem to be in the other direction.
REP. TED YOHO: No, I think this bill will get amended. I think you will have a product that comes out of the House and the Senate that’s going to fulfill the needs that we’re trying to accomplish.
And I think we need to all step back for a moment. The Affordable Care Act was full of good intentions, but yet it’s collapsing on its own. And if we did nothing, which the Democrats don’t want us to interfere, if we do nothing, it’s going to collapse, and all these people that are on that are going to lose insurance.
Our goal is to make sure everybody has access to health care, that it’s an affordable health care, but, more importantly, it’s quality health care. With the Affordable Care Act, what’s happened is, all these people have been running to Medicaid, and it’s been proven over and over again Medicaid has the worst outcomes in the industrialized world as far as the quality of health care.
And this is not a way to go just to say we have health insurance, but it’s not good health insurance. We want quality health insurance that the American industries, the American health care providers can provide, I feel, better than anywhere else in the world.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Congressman, there are a number of Republican senators who are concerned about the loss of Medicaid coverage.
REP. TED YOHO: Well, again, I look five to 10 years down the road. If we don’t fix the underlying problems now, there’s going to be a lot of people without basic coverage and needs.
I mean, they’re talking about cutting Social Security 25 percent across the board within 12 years. Nobody wants that. And so, if we don’t get these things right and make the proper reforms now in the mandatory spending, this is going to be a disaster five to 10 years down the road for all Americans. So, let’s get this right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you clear on where President Trump comes down on this? Has he tried — has he reached out to you to ask for your support?
REP. TED YOHO: He’s not asked for me personally, but being a member of the Freedom Caucus, we’re going to meet with him this week, and we will meet with him in the future.
These are things that — these are not Republican issues or Democratic issues that one side is trying to show which one can come up with the better plan. This is something that it’s going to affect all Americans. And we need to put what’s best for America right now. And let’s get that together.
And we invite buy-in from the Democrats to come onto our side. And just we want to hear your issues, instead of just having a political debate and have everybody divided over this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Would the president be able to change your mind on this, do you think?
REP. TED YOHO: I’m opening to listening to anybody. And I look forward to that debate.
And I will stand where I stand on my issues, and if somebody can convince me different, yes, you know, I’m agreeable. I’m willing to compromise, but it has to be in the right direction.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m asking because, at this point, the president has signed off on the thing that you don’t like, and that is those refundable tax credits.
And that is the fact that there is no work requirement in here.
REP. TED YOHO: Well, I have also heard him say that he’s open to a lot of suggestions, and that was one of the meetings we’re going to meet with him with the Freedom Caucus.
And as long as people are open to the dialogue, they’re willing to listen to other sides, that’s where you are going to get your compromise. And this is something we have to do. Every Republican in the House and the Senate ran on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act 100 percent.
I can only think that we’re going to come together to accomplish that goal to get quality health care that’s affordable for all Americans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again, the — some of the opposition from Republicans is coming from another direction from yours.
But, Congressman, I do want to ask you about the ads being run in your congressional district by the American Action Network for this bill …
REP. TED YOHO: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: … saying just what you have been saying: It’s time to go ahead and vote for repeal, to do it with this bill. Are those ads going to influence your vote?
REP. TED YOHO: Not at all. It’s a waste of money, as far as I’m concerned.
The people sent me up here again. I’m going into my third term. We have taken a strong stance on this, and people sent me up here to go up here and fix this problem, not to fall down and — or, you know, placate to the other side.
We’re going to fix this and we’re going to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, and we will replace it with commonsense reforms, so that people have access to quality care that’s affordable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s conservative Republicans who are paying for those ads.
REP. TED YOHO: It’s a — a Republican paid for their ad. I don’t know how conservative they are.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.
Congressman Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, thank you very much.
REP. TED YOHO: Thank you. Judy, appreciate it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should note that the American Action Network is a not-for-profit group allied with the House Republican leadership. It’s running these ads for the health care repeal bill in 30 congressional districts.