WASHINGTON (AP) — Growing numbers of Republicans showed discomfort
Monday over obliterating President Barack Obama's health care overhaul
without having a replacement to show voters. Hoping to capitalize on the
jitters, Democrats staged an evening Senate talk-a-thon to condemn the
With Donald Trump just 12 days from entering the White
House, Republicans have positioned a repeal and replacement of Obama's
2010 health care statute atop their congressional agenda. But GOP
lawmakers have never been able to rally behind an alternative, and
Republican senators are increasingly voicing reluctance to vote to yank
health coverage from millions of people without a substitute.
hesitancy was fed as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., among those who want to
delay repeal until a substitute is ready, said Trump telephoned him
Friday night and expressed support for doing both together. The
president-elect expressed a similar sentiment shortly after his
election, but his call to Paul came as GOP congressional leaders have
pushed toward an early repeal vote, to be followed by work on
alternative health care legislation that could take months or years to
"There are gathering voices of people saying, 'Hmm, maybe
we should have a replacement the same day as a repeal,'" Paul told
Highlighting GOP indecision, Steve Bannon, who
will be White House senior adviser, said, "We're still thinking that
through" when asked by reporters after a meeting in the Capitol if
repeal and replace should happen together.
The budding Republican
divisions come as the GOP-led Senate pushed toward a final vote this
week on a budget that would shield a future bill repealing Obama's law
from a Democratic filibuster.
Once passed by the Senate and later
the House, the budget would prevent Senate Democrats from using those
delaying tactics against the later legislation repealing Obama's
statute. Filibusters take 60 votes to halt in a chamber Republicans
control by just 52-48.
Lawmakers were also focused on confirmation hearings for Trump's Cabinet.
Tuesday's initial hearings, committees will examine Sen. Jeff Sessions,
R-Ala., Trump's pick for attorney general, and retired Marine Gen. John
Kelly, his choice for homeland security secretary. Seven others were
also set for hearings this week.
Also Tuesday, the Senate
Intelligence Committee planned a hearing on intelligence agencies'
conclusion that Russia meddled in the U.S. election by hacking and
distributing Democratic party emails to help Trump win the White House.
the witnesses will be FBI Director James Comey. It will be his first
public appearance before Congress since he announced just before the
election that the FBI was studying additional emails connected to
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a revelation many
Democrats say contributed to her defeat by Trump.
On the House
side of the Capitol, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., met in his office Monday
evening with top Trump transition aides to discuss GOP plans to revamp
the tax system.
"I need to make sure that we are all on the same
page. We have a huge challenge here, it was better tonight," incoming
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was heard saying after the
Democrats looking to cast themselves as populist
defenders of a law that's expanded health coverage to 20 million
Americans used speeches to C-SPAN cameras and a nearly empty Senate
chamber late Monday to attack Republicans for commencing a repeal effort
with no alternative in hand.
"They hate it almost as much as the
devil hates holy water," No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin
of Illinois said of Republicans' attitude about the law. "They certainly
have a plan to repeal it, but when it comes to replacing it, they don't
"This isn't a bumper sticker anymore, this isn't a rally anymore. This is real peoples' lives," said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
senators saying repeal should wait until a Republican alternative is
ready include Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate
Health committee. Others include Republican Sens. Susan Collins of
Maine, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Bob Corker
The budget gives congressional committees until Jan.
27 to produce legislation annulling much of the health care law, though
the consequences for missing that deadline are minor. Even so, Corker,
Collins and three other GOP senators introduced a budget amendment
Monday delaying that target date until March 3.
support for a simultaneous repeal and replacement, Corker said allowing
more time would provide "additional time to get the policy right" and
create "a stable transition" between striking Obama's law and enacting a
In a column posted Monday on FoxNews.com, Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote, "Once repeal is passed we
will turn to replacement policies that cost less and work better than
what we have now."
On CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, McConnell said replacement would follow repeal "rapidly" but did not define the timetable.