House Democrats' Hail Mary bid to save Obamacare

Democrats on Capitol Hill are planning a last-ditch effort to save President Barack Obama’s beleaguered health care law as their Republican counterparts finalize their strategy for dismantling the system beginning in January.

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the conference’s main focus next month will be defending the six-year old law.

Pelosi asked Democrats to plan events in their home districts on Saturday, Jan. 7 to “highlight the risks of repeal of the (Affordable Care Act) and of ending the Medicare guarantee.” The party is planning a national day of action with governors and members of the House and Senate to continue advancing the message a week later.

"At these events the most effective voices are those of the constituents whose lives will be affected by attacks on the ACA and Medicare," the California Democrat wrote. "Advocates and health care groups stand ready to participate and assist us."

The reality, however, is that Democrats will be all but sidelined as the GOP-led Congress strikes at the heart of the Affordable Care Act with Donald Trump in the White House.

Congressional Republicans are planning to take advantage of special fast-track budget legislation that is not subject to a Democratic filibuster and would effectively allow the GOP to dismantle some of the biggest parts of the ACA on its own.

Where Democrats will be needed is building up a comprehensive and politically workable replacement plan. And whereas few Democrats are willing to vote to repeal Obamacare, some politically vulnerable lawmakers have indicated they’re willing to entertain cooperating on replacement legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said an Obamacare repeal bill will be the “first item up in the new year” when Congress reconvenes on Jan. 3.

There’s general agreement within the GOP that they’ll need to delay when the repeal goes into effect, but opinions differ about when the effective date should be and what exactly a replacement should look like.

"Will there be challenges? Absolutely, yes. This has been a very, very controversial law," McConnell said earlier this month. "We have an obligation to the American people to change it and to do a better job. And if we can get Democratic cooperation in doing that, that would be great."

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Obamacare’s future, more than 350,000 Georgians signed up for coverage through the health insurance exchanges between Nov. 1 and Dec. 19, according to new federal data.


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...