GOP leaders unveil outline of new health law

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AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, joined by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, right, and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, departs a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Top House Republicans unveiled a rough sketch of a massive health care overhaul to rank-and-file lawmakers Thursday, but a lack of detail, cost estimates and GOP unity left unresolved the problem that’s plagued them for years: What’s the party’s plan and can Congress pass it?

At a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other party leaders described a broad vision for voiding much of President Barack Obama’s 2010 statute and replacing it with conservative policies.

It features a revamped Medicaid program for the poor, tax breaks to help people pay doctors’ bills and federally subsidized state pools to assist those with costly medical conditions in buying insurance.

Lawmakers called the ideas options, and many were controversial. One being pushed by Ryan and other leaders would replace the tax increases in Obama’s law with new levies on the value of some employer-provided health plans — a political no-fly zone for Republicans averse to tax boosts.

“You have to legislate with a sense of political reality,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who said backing that proposal “would set up an ad against you from multiple directions” during upcoming elections.

The scant health care progress mirrors a lack of movement on other issues in a capital run by the GOP. No proposals have surfaced to pursue President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to build a border wall with Mexico or buttress the nation’s infrastructure, and Republicans have yet to coalesce around another priority, revamping the nation’s tax code.

Senate Republicans have criticized a House GOP plan to change how corporations are taxed. Trump has said he will release his own proposal in the coming weeks, but nothing had been produced, drawing mockery from Democrats.

“At some point we need to move from imaginary made-up plans to things that you can read on paper,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

The health care outline was aimed at giving Republicans something to exhibit during next week’s congressional recess, at a time of boisterous town hall meetings packed with supporters of Obama’s law.


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