Ryan: GOP will repeal, replace Obamacare at same time

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House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday Republicans plan to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law at the same time they approve a GOP replacement plan.

“We want to do this at the same time, and in some cases in the same bill,” Ryan said during a town hall in Washington sponsored by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper. “So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time.”

Ryan said Republicans are moving “as quickly as they can” to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but said he doesn’t yet have a date, and it will take “a little bit of time” to do so.

“We’re working on this as fast as possible,” he said, adding that the GOP will act “definitely within these first 100 days” of Trump’s presidency.

Ryan’s comments align the speaker with President-elect Donald Trump, who said at a news conference Wednesday that repealing and replacing Obamacare should happen “essentially simultaneously.” Some Republicans on Capitol Hill have urged more caution, however, as the party tries to find consensus on a plan to replace the law that has insured millions of people.

At the outset of the town hall, Ryan didn’t say that the government has an obligation to insure every American.

“I clearly think there’s a role for the government in health care, no doubt about it,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

He added that he supports elements of the health care law — including that “people with pre-existing conditions, no matter how much money they make,” should have access to insurance.

But, he said, “The law is collapsing, and so we’ve got to rescue people.”

Ryan faces a tough balancing act as he leads the House at the outset of Trump’s administration. He’s attempting to hold together an unruly set of Republicans that includes Trump loyalists who want to see the President-elect’s populist policies swiftly enacted, fiscal hawks who fret about the price tag of those policies and moderates still leery of the President-elect. Meanwhile, Democrats appear set to deny the GOP even limited support on any major initiatives.

Ryan, who waited weeks to even endorse Trump after he clinched the GOP nomination, also now knows his party’s electoral fate is largely tied to his ability to help Trump succeed. And he remains committed to his own, much more detailed policy platform, years in the making. Ryan had long sought a Republican president to sign his entitlement reforms and budget cuts into law — but hadn’t counted on this Republican president.

Planned Parenthood

The speaker was pressed at the town hall on the GOP’s push to block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal health care dollars for services provided to women because the organization provides abortions — even though abortions are not covered by taxpayer dollars.

“We don’t want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider,” he said.

Tapper pressed Ryan, noting that existing law blocks taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. But, Ryan argued, “money’s fungible, and it effectively floats these organizations.”

He said Republicans would rather shift those dollars — and redirect Planned Parenthood’s patients using those dollars — to federal community health centers.

“You don’t have these controversies by funding health centers,” he said.

The vast majority of federal money that Planned Parenthood does receive funds preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests, and other women’s health care services.

Ryan has worked to deepen ties with the incoming Trump administration, in part by giving Vice President-elect Mike Pence — a long-time House colleague — an office nearby, where Pence will huddle with lawmakers much like former Vice President Dick Cheney did during the George W. Bush administration.

Meanwhile, the House speaker was sidetracked briefly this week by a spat over a painting. Democratic lawmakers attempted to hang a painting of Ferguson, Missouri, that depicted police officers as pigs. When furious Republicans objected, Ryan threatened to invoke House rules to force the painting’s permanent removal.

By Eric Bradner, CNN