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More Republicans Express Concern About Repealing ACA Without Replacement

Two more lawmakers came forward with concerns about passing a repeal of the law separate from a plan to replace it.
Image: Republican leadership news conference
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, after a Republican policy luncheon last year in Washington, D.C.MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be speeding up his timeline to have legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, saying it would happen "very quickly" after repeal.

The slight change of tune comes after an increasing number of Republicans lawmakers have voiced their concern about the consequences of repealing Obamacare without a plan to replace it. According to one nonpartisan study, repealing the ACA would cause nearly 30 million people to lose their health care, a number that would jump to 59 million by 2019.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, is the latest lawmaker to speak up, telling NBC News that it is "unwise" for Republicans to move forward on repeal without a replacement plan ready to go.

"I believe it is a fair statement to say that there is a diverse cross-section of the House Republican Conference who feel, as I did, that replacement should occur simultaneously of a repeal," Dent said in a telephone interview.

Dent said it is "careless" to simply "hope for the best" after a repeal.

Related: Tough Choices Loom on Long Road to Replacing Obamacare

Dent, a moderate Republican, is not alone in his concern. Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus are also urging a quick replacement. They met with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, this week to discuss the repeal strategy.

Paul was one of the first senators to express dissatisfaction with the initial plans to repeal the health care law without a replacement. He wrote an opinion piece urging that "repeal and replace" should be simultaneous, and he tweeted that he spoke to President-elect Donald Trump, who agreed.

On Friday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, an ally of Trump’s, said on NBC's "MTP Daily," "I don't think we can just repeal Obamacare and say we're going to get the answer two years from now." Hours later, another Republican echoed him, saying the strategy to repeal, then replace is not wise.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, told reporters Friday: "I think the president-elect's position was the right position, and again, if you look at some of his quotes recently, he continues to offer caution as it relates to this, that in fact in the campaign he said repeal and replace should take place simultaneously. That to me is the prudent course of action."

McConnell, R-Kentucky, seems to be digesting his members' concerns. In December, he indicated that replacement could take time, saying that after repeal is complete, "what comes next is what comes next. Then we will determine what the replacement is going to be."

But Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation,"McConnell said Republicans "will be replacing it rapidly after repealing it." When pressed on a timeline, McConnell refused to provide specifics, saying only that it would be "very quickly."

Dent said he and many members of the Republican conference saw Trump's tweets Friday morning cautioning Republicans in their replacement efforts. Trump told them to "be careful" because Democrats currently own the health care law.

"I saw that as a flashing yellow light, like caution to not move precipitously," Dent said.

Dent and Corker both said separately Friday that a full repeal of all the tax provisions of the ACA would mean Republicans would have to re-insert those taxes in any replacement bill to pay for their version.

"That means Republicans would have to vote for a tax increase. Now, y'all been here for a while and understand how unlikely that is," Corker said.

Related: Replacing Obamacare Will Be Difficult, and Repealing It Will Be, Too

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin,said the House would remove government funding of Planned Parenthood in the repeal bill, a move that could further alienate some moderate Republicans who are needed for passage.

Dent is one of those Republicans. He said including Planned Parenthood defunding would make repealing the ACA more challenging.

"My own view is that Obamacare is complex and controversial enough without including Planned Parenthood provisions," he said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also said she would be troubled if Republicans moved ahead with a plan that eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood.