House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday that a failure on the part of Republicans to pass healthcare legislation rolled out by House leadership earlier this week would be a “momentum-killer” for the remainder of the GOP agenda.
Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Ryan said the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is just the first in a series of legislative goals for Republicans that include confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, increasing defense funding and passing tax reform and a budget. Those hurdles must be cleared in order, Ryan said, and a stumble on healthcare would gum up the entire process.
“Think of legislation as one train track with a bunch of trains on the track. If you don’t get these trains through the system, it slows everything else down,” he said. “I do agree that this is momentum-killing. If we don’t do this and reduce or get rid of the trillion dollar tax increases in Obamacare, that just puts tax reform a trillion dollars further out of our reach. So there’s a lot that rides on this, not to mention just the schedule. We love Neil Gorsuch. We think he’s a great judge. We want to stay on schedule and get him in there as well. There’s a lot that rides on this with respect to the sequence of things.”
While Ryan characterized the repeal-and-replace legislation on Friday as “a Republican consensus” bill, some in the party’s more conservative wing have voiced objections that the legislation does not go far enough in undoing some of the Obamacare provisions they most object to. Other Republicans have said they cannot support the bill because of its cuts to Medicaid.
Still more Republicans have warned Ryan and the rest of the leadership in the House that they are moving too quickly with the legislation and that the bill as currently constituted will likely be dead on arrival in the Senate. Ryan said the House has scheduled five weeks for the bill, “which is fairly lengthy.”
Ryan dismissed the opposition from within his own party, telling Hewitt that “We’re going through the growing pains of being an opposition party with Barack Obama to actually being a governing party with a republican president, Donald Trump.”
The House speaker has also been on the receiving end of criticism that House leadership is shepherding the bill through committee hearings before it has been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. But Ryan said it is common to hold hearings on legislation before it’s been scored and said that he has warned his members to brace themselves for a CBO report that says the GOP plan will result in lost coverage for some yet-unknown number of Americans.
“I’ve been telling our members, just get ready. This is always what happens with CBO,” Ryan said. “We always know you’re never going to win a coverage beauty contest when it’s free-market versus government mandates. If the government says ‘thou shall buy our health insurance,’ the government estimates are going to say people will comply and it will happen. And when you replace that with we’re going to have a free market and you buy what you want to buy, they’re going to say not nearly as many people are going to do that.”