President Donald Trump in his address Tuesday to a joint session of Congress gave GOP congressional leadership a vague but important assist in getting their caucus on board with their Obamacare repeal plan.
Without going into much detail, Trump name-checked the major elements of a replacement package that has been floated by Republican leaders and was leaked in a draft legislation last week. Perhaps, most importantly, he called for tax credits for individuals to buy insurance — which GOP hardliners have been vocally resisting — as well as less controversial elements of the package, like expanded health savings accounts and allowing insurers to sell across state lines.
“We should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts –- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government,” Trump said, according to his prepared remarks.
He urged Congress to take action.
“Obamacare is collapsing –- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans,” he said, according to his prepared remarks. “Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.”
The portion of the speech was quickly highlighted in an email blast from Speaker Paul Ryan’s communications office. It comes as at least a handful of conservative hardliners, if not more, have come out against the tax credits in particular and the details of the draft legislation in general.
Ryan, in a brief interview with CNN after the speech concluded, praised it for showing that “We’re all working on the same page.”
“I think he did a fantastic job on health care,” Ryan said. “He articulated exactly the response that we’re working on, that we all believe is necessary to repeal and replace Obamacare with a much better system. ”
The conservatives who have revolted against congressional leadership’s proposals dismissed the idea that Trump’s comments were an endorsement of the elements they’ve taken issue with.
“As far as the tax credits are concerned, I don’t know if that settles that at all, completely,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told TPM after the speech. He and other conservatives pointed out that Trump said merely “tax credits,” and not “refundable tax credits.” Refundable tax credits, which were in a leaked draft Obamacare bill that has stirred the debate, would provide a subsidy for those who pay less in taxes than the tax credits being offered. Conservatives have slammed these form of tax credits as “Obamacare-lite” and a new entitlement program.
“From the get-go, [Trump] has been focused on doing what he told the voters he was going to do,” Rep. Jim Jordan, (R-OH) former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters after the speech. “What we told the voters we were going to do on health care is repeal it and replace it. We didn’t say that we were going to repeal it, and keep Medicaid expansion. We didn’t say that we were going to repeal it and keep tax increases, and we didn’t say we were going to repeal it and start a new entitlement program. That’s what we have understand has been in the so called leaked plan, and we have real concerns with that.”