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President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants to see Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act soon and pass a replacement “very quickly or simultaneously." His urging contradicts Republican leaders who have been cautioning that overhauling the massive health care law would take time.
Trump would like Obamacare repealed within days and contended that “the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter,” he told the New York Times in an interview Tuesday. “Long to me would be weeks," Trump added.
Trump's statements could be an effort at public persuasion but they are complicating efforts for congressional Republicans working to plot out plans to repeal and replace the ACA in a manner that would be politically and economically viable while maintaining the support of enough Republicans to pass the legislation.
While the repeal effort is scheduled to be complete by the end of January, if all goes according to plan, Republican leaders have said replacement could take much longer, possibly months or even years.
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Republican leaders are feeling pressure from some rank-and-file members who are feeling jittery to speed up the multi-step process and replace the health care law at the same time it is repealed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated Tuesday morning, before Trump's comments, that he is taking into consideration the concerns of some in his GOP conference about a long lag between repeal and replace.
"It is our goal to bring it all together concurrently," Ryan said for the first time. "We are going to use every tool at our disposal through legislation, through regulation, to bring replace concurrent along with repeal so we can save people from this mess."
The Senate and House are expected to vote on the first step of the repeal process this week as part of a budget resolution known as reconciliation. The legislation directs that the second part of the repeal process, which would actually start to dismantle the health care law, be complete by January 27.
But Trump’s latest remarks have put him in front of the debate, putting even more pressure on Republican leaders to speed up the process.
Republican leaders Tuesday declined denounce – or support – Trump’s timeline and insisted they are on the same page.
Trump’s plans are “not any way inconsistent with the timeline we’re aiming for,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said.
One member of leadership, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, said that Trump’s public pronouncements and apparent lack of understanding of the complexities of how Congress works - and the difficulty in passing legislation so quickly - are complicating their efforts.
"From a messaging standpoint, yes I worry," Thune said about Trump's comments.
Trump had been publicly cautioning Republicans for the past week, telling them via Twitter to “be careful” in their health care repeal efforts, which could be politically challenging.
Five Republican senators have proposed an amendment that would postpone the repeal deadline until March 3, giving legislators enough time to draw up a replacement plan to vote on simultaneously. There is division among Republicans about that idea and Republican leaders haven't committed to allowing a vote on it.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, is one of the members sponsoring that amendment. He said about Trump's accelerated timeline: "I'm looking forward to hearing how they would anticipate that occurring."