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Trump demands swift Obamacare repeal as GOP splits over timing

Steven T. Dennis and Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg News on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump said Republicans should repeal Obamacare immediately, even as a breakaway group of five moderate Senate Republicans is trying to delay the effort until March.

Trump told The New York Times in an interview that repeal should happen as early as next week and that "the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter."

Congress isn't planning to act that quickly, and if those five GOP senators stand firm on their demand to flesh out a replacement before acting on a repeal, it could take even longer.

For now, Republican leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan say the election result affirmed the need for urgency.

"This is a rescue mission," Ryan told reporters Tuesday.

Even so, Republicans in both chambers are showing growing uneasiness about the rush to deliver swiftly on one of Trump's top campaign promises.

Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska offered an amendment Monday night to the budget resolution that would extend the target date for the committees to write an Obamacare repeal bill to March 3 from Jan. 27.

"As President-elect Trump has stated, repeal and replace should take place simultaneously, and this amendment will give the incoming administration more time to outline its priorities," Corker said in a statement. "By extending the deadline for budget reconciliation instructions until March, Congress and the incoming administration will each have additional time to get the policy right."

With Democrats opposed to a straight repeal bill, Republicans can lose no more than one backer if they want to fast-track their approach before Trump takes office. Republican leaders in the Senate are hoping to adopt the budget resolution -- which would allow an Obamacare repeal bill to pass with 50 votes and escape a Senate filibuster -- early Thursday after a marathon session of amendment votes.

More broadly, the amendment reflects the deep divisions, which persist nearly seven years into Republicans' promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, within the party on what kind of system to set up. Views range from a minimalist approach -- favored by the most conservative members -- that lets the market work its will, to a substantial but scaled-back government role that maintains significant parts of the law, such as financial assistance to cover low-income people under Medicaid.

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