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House GOP drives health care bill through committees while key Republicans raise objections

March 9, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
While two House committees worked through the night to pass the GOP health care bill in party line votes, party leaders aimed for the big picture. Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi decried the lack of analysis yet by the CBO, and Speaker Paul Ryan urged unsure Republicans by saying it is "the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare." Lisa Desjardins reports.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The first votes are in the books on the Republican replacement bill for Obamacare. The American Health Care Act moved forward today, after marathon markup Sessions.

Lisa Desjardins has our report.

LISA DESJARDINS: For, Republicans a day of determination and willpower.

MAN: On this vote, the ayes are 23, the nos are 16.

LISA DESJARDINS: Two House committees worked through the night to pass the GOP health care bill in party-line votes. Ways and Means, focused on tax issues, finished just before dawn.

Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas:

REP. KEVIN BRADY, R-Texas: An important step in the repeal of Obamacare and freeing millions of Americans, patients and local business from that pain.

LISA DESJARDINS: The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which looked at coverage issues, went 27 hours straight.

MAN: This committee stands adjourned.

(APPLAUSE)

LISA DESJARDINS: The long hours brought pizza and coffee deliveries and, especially overnight, a straightforward debate about government’s role in things like the Medicaid program for the poor.

REP. KATHY CASTOR, D-Fla.: We do not know the precise impact on working families. It is not clear. But make no mistake, this destroys Medicaid as we know it. It is the fundamental reworking of that vital federal-state partnership.

REP. JOE BARTON, R-Texas: We believe that if we eliminate some of the mandates in the Affordable Care Act, give the states flexibility to run their Medicaid programs, that, by golly, they will figure out how to provide the best health care they can for their populations.

LISA DESJARDINS: While committees worked on details, party leaders aimed for the big picture. The top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, decried the lack of analysis yet by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: Republicans are facing racing this bill forward before the CBO can truly expose the consequences, the catastrophic consequences of their health bill.

LISA DESJARDINS: Speaker Paul Ryan, meanwhile, rolled up his sleeves with a PowerPoint presentation for the press and strong words for unsure Republicans.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The time is here, the time is now, this is the moment.

LISA DESJARDINS: The Republican sales pitch has an aggressive goal: to get this bill through Congress in one month, by April 7. That’s when lawmakers leave for Easter recess, hence the pace, with two House committees voting on two halves today and next week the Budget Committee planning to merge those bills into one.

To stay on track, the full House would vote by March 30. That leaves just a week or two for the Senate, where a number of key Republicans are already raising objections. This morning, Arkansas Senator Tom cotton tweeted: “House health care bill can’t pass Senate without major changes. Pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast.”

Maine’s Susan Collins told Yahoo News yesterday: “I do not think it would be well-received in the Senate.”

And in a letter earlier this week, four other Republican senators, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said they are concerned about Medicaid.

Conservatives like Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah have also spoken out against the bill.

Enter President Trump, who tweeted today: “Despite what you hear in the press, health care is coming along great.”

The White House is also moving fast to campaign for the bill on the ground. Mr. Trump will hold a rally in Nashville next week, and Vice President Pence heads to Louisville, Kentucky, this weekend.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

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