During the last two elections New York and Pennsylvania Republicans campaigned on repealing and replacing so-called Obamacare – but House Republicans have yet to vote on a replacement plan.
Remember “repeal and replace”? It’s the campaign slogan that helped Republicans gain control of the House in 2010 and keep that majority in 2012. House leaders have done what they can to repeal the law – the GOP has cast more than 40 votes to scrap or defund all or part of the Affordable Care Act. But where’s the replacement?
“I haven’t seen any replacement,” says North Country Democratic Congressman Bill Owens.
He hasn’t seen a replacement plan hit the House floor, because he says Republicans don’t have an alternative.
“And so they talk of the mantra of ‘repeal and replace’ but don’t have a plan,” Owens adds.
Many House Republicans are growing frustrated with party leaders for not offering a G.O.P. alternative to Obamacare.
Republican Richard Hanna from New York’s 22nd Congressional District, which stretches from Utica to Binghamton, says its time has come.
“But no, they haven’t done anything that’s comprehensive. And you know, I think – I think that they should,” says Hanna.
Republicans have been focused on repeal efforts and have resisted small changes to the law, so the president has made changes from the White House. Hanna says the stance from leaders in both parties is making both sides increasingly bitter.
“You could argue that that’s all politically driven. But it’s also a bill that I believe they sincerely don’t like. And I’m among them, you know,” says Hanna.
The majority of House Republicans have signed onto a bill that allows people to purchase health insurance across state lines. It also allows individuals to deduct health costs from their taxes.
Northeastern Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino says it’s a common sense piece of legislation.
“We should be able to buy health insurance across state lines for competition. You know, competition breeds lower prices. You didn’t see anything in Obamacare about tort reform or frivolous litigation. So that proves to me that it wasn’t taken seriously,” Marino says.
Marino says the administration isn’t helping by brushing aside every Republican criticism of the law, even as its delayed parts of it, like the mandate for larger companies to offer coverage to their workers.
“No, there’s nothing wrong with it. That’s what we’re getting from the White House: There’s nothing wrong with it,” Marino says.
And Marino says there are actually some things in the president’s health law he and other Republicans want to maintain, like coverage for preexisting conditions.
“My daughter has a pre-existing condition. You can’t imagine what we’re going through to get her medication, still trying to go through this. I’m a three-time cancer survivor and I’m in remission,” says Marino.
So if Republicans have an alternative why aren’t their party leaders bringing it up for a vote? New York Republican Tom Reed says the political reality is Democrats control the White House and Senate, which ties the hands of Republican Party leaders.
And if you’re getting sick of politicians debating Obamacare – as they’ve done for the past six years -- Reed says you better buckle up.
“I think until you get that critical mass and we have to go through this, this is going to be a – health care’s going to be an issue into the next presidential cycle. And so that’s when – you know, we’re going to be able to do some real reforms,” Reed says.
When lawmakers come back to Washington in September they face a large stack of unfinished business, like the border crisis and deteriorating situations overseas. Many rank and file Republicans are hoping that list includes a chance to carry through on their promise to replace the health care law, but it isn’t looking likely.