Pence turns up the heat on health care after Senate stalls

Pence turns up the heat on health care after Senate stalls

Vice President Mike Pence delivered an energetic endorsement Tuesday of the Senate Republicans’ new approach to the Affordable Care Act: Repeal it now and figure out a replacement later.

“Inaction is not an option. Congress needs to step up. Congress needs to do their job, and Congress needs to do their job now,” Pence said to applause in his speech to a national retailers’ summit in Washington.

Pence’s comments came after two more GOP senators withdrew their support for the earlier Senate GOP health bill Monday night, effectively halting it in its tracks. Two Republican senators had already announced their opposition to the legislation. Because Democrats are united in opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Republicans can only lose two votes.

Pence said he and President Trump “fully support” the move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to vote on a clean repeal bill. The vice president also scolded Congress, blaming lawmakers for the Senate bill’s failure.

“President Trump and I fully support the majority leader’s decision to move forward with a bill that just repeals Obamacare and gives Congress time, as the president said, to work on a new health care plan that will start with a clean slate,” Pence said.

“The Senate should vote to repeal now and replace later, or return to the legislation carefully crafted in the House and Senate,” he continued.

Pence also referenced Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet about the Senate bill. “As the president said today, most Republicans were loyal, terrific and worked really hard,” he said.

McConnell announced Monday night that he would change his strategy and push for a clean repeal bill. The clean repeal bill would give Congress two years to develop a replacement for Obamacare. Critics worry that the fractious Congress would fail to come together around a replacement plan.

The majority leader plans to return to a piece of legislation passed by the Senate in 2015 that repealed Obamacare without a replacement. Some of the GOP senators who are now wavering voted for the bill at the time — but it had little chance of getting past then-President Barack Obama’s veto pen.

The latest strategy faces an uphill path. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have already announced their opposition to a clean repeal. McConnell can only lose one more GOP vote.

For his part, Trump on Tuesday blamed all Democrats and “a few” Republicans for the Senate bill’s failure. “We will return!” he exclaimed on Twitter.

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