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Schumer Says GOP Division Gives Democrats A Chance To Save Obamacare

Democrats believe they have a good chance to keep the Affordable Care Act in place.
Brennan Linsley
Democrats believe they have a good chance to keep the Affordable Care Act in place.

President Trump's declaration during his speech to Congress Tuesday night that Obamacare is "collapsing" and must be replaced was cheered by Republicans.

But Republican lawmakers remain unable to coalesce behind an approach to their oft-stated goal of repeal and replace, and Democrats believe they hold the upper hand to the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

In an interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep that aired Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the odds "are much greater than half" that the ACA will remain in place.

Sen. Chuck Schumer talks to NPR's Morning Edition

Schumer cited the pledge by three Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, in support of what they called #FullRepeal of Obamacare, which is further than other Republican senators have said they are willing to go.

Schumer said if they lose those votes, "that's the margin" and Republicans don't have enough votes to support any kind of replacement.

Schumer said Democrats are willing to sit down and negotiate with Republicans about "how to improve the ACA," but he said Democratic senators are united in opposition "to any form of repeal."

Key House Republican committee chairs held a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill Wednesday in which they briefed GOP senators on the evolving ACA proposal. But House Republicans are also divided about how to approach the issue.

Two House conservative groups, the Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, say they oppose a draft measure that was circulated by GOP leaders, which would provide tax credits for low-income Americans to help them purchase health insurance.

Those tax credits could be refundable, meaning they would be paid out even if the recipients pay very little or no income tax. Conservatives who find that unacceptable see it as replacing one subsidy with another.

Backers of the approach said they have Trump's support, based on his mentioning of tax credits during his speech.

Meanwhile, Paul tweeted he was "heading to a secure location" in the Capitol where he alleges House leaders "are keeping the House Obamacare bill. I will demand a copy for the American people."

Even if Republicans in Congress are unable to settle on a measure to replace Obamacare, there are still steps the Department of Health And Human Services could take on its own to alter the program.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has long been a chief opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News NPR News
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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