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Paul Ryan: Republicans Still Committed to 'Repeal and Replace' Obamacare Strategy

Ryan responds to reports that Republicans in Congress were working to rebrand their ACA strategy as 'repair' rather than 'repeal and replace.'
Image: Speaker of the House Republican Paul Ryan
House Speaker Paul Ryan.Michael Reynolds / EPA

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday resisted the notion that Republicans are trying to condition the public to the idea of "repairing" the Affordable Care Act, rather than using those other two "r" words: "repeal and replace."

"If you're going to repair the American health care system and fix its problems, you have to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better: patient-centered health care," Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press." "And that is how you repair this health care system."

Bloomberg reported that Republicans in Congress were working to rebrand their "Obamacare" strategy to "repair" from "repeal and replace."

"Somewhere along the line, there was confusion that we were going to take the Obamacare architecture and, you know, tinker at the margins and repair it," Ryan said. "You can't. It is a collapsing law."

Congressional Republicans are wrestling over how to do away with the law and implement their own alternative, and Ryan said on CBS' "60 Minutes" in December that repealing the law was their first priority.

Asked about the Iran deal, Ryan said that although he never supported the deal to begin with and believes it was "a huge mistake," he acknowledged that "I don't think you're going to go back and reconstitute the multilateral sanctions that were in place."

The key, he said, is to "rigorously enforce this deal."

Citing Iran's history as a state sponsor of terrorism and human rights abuses, Ryan said he wanted to "ratchet up sanctions."

After a federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration's restrictions on travelers from seven countries, Trump lashed out at the judge who issued the ruling.

Ryan responded this weekend with a statement, saying: "This president is hardly the first one to express frustration with the judicial branch. What's important is his administration is complying with the ruling and taking the proper steps to resolve the issue quickly. This is our system of divided government, and I'm confident that when the process runs its course the order will be upheld."

Throughout the last year, Ryan has not had the smoothest relationship with Trump, stoking tension by not immediately endorsing him at the end of the Republican primary campaign and criticizing Trump for several of his controversial statements.

But Ryan said they talk frequently, sometimes at 11 p.m., and he indicated that their differences in tone symbolize the various views out of their party.

"We’ve always had different kinds of Republicans throughout our party," he said. "It's a big tent party."