Republicans in Congress for the first time are lowering expectations for how much of Obamacare they can repeal and how quickly they can do it.
As they meet constituents back home, GOP lawmakers seem trapped between the reality of their failed repeal effort and President Donald Trump’s renewed promises this week to finish off Obamacare before taking on tax reform. Vice President Mike Pence is also still trying to keep the repeal dream alive, working with conservatives on new tweaks to the stalled House bill. But even if the ultra-conservatives come on board, there’s no sign that the moderate Republicans needed to pass a bill are ready to sign on.
Those dynamics mean the Obamacare repeal effort that has helped define the Republican Party for seven years may live on in a sort of political purgatory — with no one willing to pull the plug even though there are few signs of life. The uncertainty created by that zombie state could compel health insurers to stop offering coverage in the exchanges next year, paralyze action on other legislative priorities on Capitol Hill and come back to haunt Republicans at the polls in 2018.
Lawmakers back in their districts during their first recess since the collapse of the House effort are downplaying the repeal agenda as if the rallying cry to eliminate the law “root and branch” has been pared down to some leaves. Some constituents are conveying their displeasure.
Joe Barton (R-Texas), a Freedom Caucus member, was confronted at a town hall meeting Tuesday by a self-described Republican who blasted the GOP for not repealing all of Obamacare on “Day One of the Trump administration.”