Bitter debate in Congress augurs tough road for Trump-backed healthcare plan
Congress was the scene on Wednesday of a bitter start to the debate on the new healthcare law with which Republicans hope to replace the healthcare reform of former President Barack Obama, and the acrimony among lawmakers presages a tough road toward approval for the plan, which is backed by President Donald Trump.
Two House committees began debate of the two bills comprising the GOP proposal to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, signed in 2010 by the former president, and replace it with a new plan, thus fulfilling a long-standing Republican promise and policy dream.
In both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, lawmakers clashed during the debate over the new healthcare law, to which Democrats have already presented hundreds of amendments with the aim of logjamming the process.
On the same day, influential groups representing hospitals and nurses came out against the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, joining doctors and the retirees’ lobby to warn that it would lead to a rise in the uninsured, as reported in The New York Times.
In a letter to lawmakers, major hospital groups wrote, “As organizations that take care of every individual who walks through our doors, both due to our mission and our obligations under federal law, we are committed to ensuring health care coverage is available and affordable for all.”
Although those amendments to modify the bills probably won't go very far because of the Republican House majority, Democrats are using legal strategies to slow down the procedure, thus forcing the texts of the bills to be read in their entirely during the hearings.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has not been able to analyze the content of the lengthy and detailed bills and issue a report on their likely impact, and so Democrats insisted that it was necessary to stymie the proceedings until such an analysis had been made public.
In addition, they also took advantage of the situation to present politically-motivated amendments, such as one requiring Trump to make his tax returns public, something that he has been avoiding doing since he launched his presidential candidacy.
Democrats have been very critical of the new plan, claiming that Obamacare has provided access to health insurance, and therefore healthcare, to more than 20 million Americans who did not have it before, and they criticized the GOP plan that, among other things, cuts subsidies for low-income citizens who presently rely on them to be able to pay their insurance premiums.
In addition, although the Republican congressional leadership and the White House support the plan, the conservative wing of the party is fragmented on the matter.
House Republicans hope to bring the bills to a vote in just a few days so as to be able to send the plan to the Senate, where the conservative majority is narrower and the plan will face even more hurdles.