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First House health care votes near, GOP dissenters persist

AP  |  Washington 

After seven years of saber-rattling, Republicans seem set to start muscling legislation through Congress reshaping the country's health care system.

Don't confuse that with GOP unity or assume that success is guaranteed. Unresolved disputes over taxes and Medicaid rage and conservatives complaining that Republican proposals don't go far enough could undermine the effort, or at least make GOP leaders' lives difficult.

Two House committees Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means plan to begin voting Wednesday on their portions of the legislation, barring late problems. Leaders want to push the package through the House this month and hope the Senate can consider it by Congress' early April recess.

It's an ambitious calendar for what could be the year's most momentous congressional battle.

Repealing President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul has long been the GOP holy grail. It helped elect President Donald Trump and has driven the Republican agenda in Congress, given GOP office-seekers a rationale for their candidacies and fueled countless fundraising appeals.

Yet Republicans have never rallied behind an alternative and spent years settling for dozens of bills scuttling the law that went nowhere. Now, with a GOP president and party control of the House and Senate, voters expect Republicans to deliver and party leaders are banking on it.

"If you're a Republican who votes against 'Obamacare' repeal, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do to your constituents," said Doug Badger, a GOP health care adviser.

There are few hard-line conservatives on the two committees poised to vote this week, so the panels will likely approve the legislation over unified Democratic opposition. Rockier problems loom in the full House and Senate.

If 22 House Republicans or three Senate Republicans join united Democrats and oppose health legislation, it would fail.

Highlighting an unabated push to influence the legislation, some GOP governors asked lawmakers last weekend to let states choose to continue receiving unlimited federal money to treat all who qualify for Medicaid, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Currently, the GOP bill would instead give states set amounts for each Medicaid recipient a pathway to gradually cutting the federal-state health program for the poor.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sat, March 04 2017. 14:57 IST