Tom Cotton: Conservatives Could Back ACA Bill with ‘A Lot of Carpentry’

Kathryn Blackhurst,

Critics, admin hint at possible compromise, Mulvaney calls current legislation a ‘framework’

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said a House GOP leadership’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will require “a lot of carpentry on that framework” before conservative Republicans in Congress can support it during an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”

When House leadership unveiled the American Health Care Act last week, the bill was immediately met with significant skepticism from both flanks of the GOP caucus. Many conservatives condemned the bill as “Obamacare Lite” and “Obamacare 2.0.” A block of moderate Republican senators said the drawback on Medicaid expansion in the proposal was too drastic.

“Right now, I think there’s a charm offensive going on. Everybody’s being nice to everybody because they want us to vote for this. But we’re not going to vote for it.”

“The bill probably can be fixed but it’s going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework,” Cotton said on “This Week.” “We need to get this right … not get it fast.”

Cotton warned that if the House leadership refuses to pause and negotiate, they risk losing both the public’s trust and their congressional majority.

tcotton_small Tom Cotton: Conservatives Could Back ACA Bill with ‘A Lot of Carpentry’ Republicans

“We have majorities in the House and the Senate, and in the White House not only to repeal Obamacare and get health care reform right, but to reform our taxes and our regulations and build up our military and accomplish many other things,” Cotton said. “Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a vocal opponent of the GOP House leadership’s bill, urged the legislation’s supporters to take their cue from President Donald Trump and exhibit a willingness to negotiate.

“I’ve talked to the president I think three times on Obamacare, and I hear from him that he’s willing to negotiate,” Paul said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “And you know what I hear from [House Speaker] Paul Ryan? ‘It’s a binary choice, young man.’ But what does a binary choice mean? His way or the highway?”

“What we’re hearing is a binary choice — it’s the Ryan plan or the status quo. And what he’s rammed through his committee is his without any amendments,” Paul added. “And that’s the question: if we get what we’ve got from Ryan, Obamacare Lite, he will not have the votes.”

If Ryan and the House leadership refuses to negotiate, Paul said they would renege on their campaign promises to completely “repeal and replace” Obamacare with disastrous consequences all around.

“Right now, I think there’s a charm offensive going on. Everybody’s being nice to everybody because they want us to vote for this. But we’re not going to vote for it,” Paul said.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that the Republicans “said we were going to repeal it, so let’s do that.”

“The key is, let’s do what we told voters we are going to do and repeal Obamacare, and not create a new version of Obamacare,” Jordan said, adding that the bill “doesn’t unite Republicans” because it fails to lower premiums, distribute tax credits correctly or make health insurance more affordable for struggling Americans.

“The White House is open to changes … we’re looking at changes consistent with what we told the American people,” Jordan said.

The White House deployed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in an attempt to sell the legislation and assuage conservatives’ concerns. Insisting that the GOP plan is “absolutely not” “Obamacare Lite” and saying that it’s “puzzling” to him why there is such a strong conservative backlash, Price tried to sell the plan’s benefits.

“I believe and the president believes firmly that if you create a system that’s accessible for everybody and you provide the financial feasibility for everybody to get coverage, that we have a great opportunity to increase coverage over where we are right now,” Price said. “As opposed to where the line is going right now where people are losing coverage, and we’re going to have fewer individuals covered than we do currently.”

“I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through … understanding that they’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy,” Price added. “We need a system that works for people.”

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, dubbed the Republican bill a “framework,” saying that the House and Senate are more than welcome to build upon it.

“The bill here is the framework, it’s a really nice framework. We like it. It’s a good repeal and replacement bill,” Mulvaney said on “This Week.” “If the House thinks they can make it a little better, if the Senate thinks they can make it a little better, we’re open to talking about those types of things.”

“If there are ideas in the House … regarding things like changing the [Medicaid] expansion date … those are great ideas that would improve the bill,” Mulvaney added. “If the House sees fit to make the bill better, it certainly has the support of the White House.”