House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he remains committed to a legislative calendar aimed at finishing a tax overhaul by August, despite recent comments that he didn’t want artificial deadlines hindering efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Repealing the ACA was seen as a crucial stepping stone to allow lawmakers to turn their attention to a tax overhaul, both in terms of fulfilling Republican campaign promises and easing budget scoring constraints on tax changes. House Republicans had hoped to pass a repeal bill March 23, but pulled it from the floor when it became apparent that it lacked the votes to pass.
That target date was part of a broader GOP goal of sending a repeal bill to the White House before the two-week spring recess that starts for House lawmakers on April 7.
At Ryan’s weekly press conference April 6, he said he still believed in the timeline he laid out in January at a party retreat in Philadelphia, which called for repeal by the break and the tax overhaul by the end of summer. Those goals were part of a so-called Gantt chart—showing needed steps and timelines to meet a specified target date for completing a project—that Ryan brandished at the January retreat.
“We have plenty of cushion built into our plans,” Ryan said. “And we are well within that spectrum of timeline that we envisioned on dealing with the Obamacare legislation.”
Asked how the delay in getting the ACA repealed affected other Republican agenda items, such as a fiscal 2018 budget resolution and the tax overhaul, Ryan said, “All those things are still on the same timeline that we’ve already been on.”
Ryan’s comments came after he had recently appeared to signal a willingness to be flexible, at least in regards to when House Republicans would again attempt to bring ACA repeal to the floor.
“We are moving as quickly as we can and we obviously just want to do it this spring, but I am not going to put a specific date on it because I don’t want to put an artificial deadline on what is really promising good work that is occurring,” Ryan told radio show host Charlie Sykes April 5.
Earlier in the day, Ryan had suggested Republicans could take several weeks to decide on a new ACA repeal approach.
“We can keep working this for weeks now. We don’t have some kind of artificial deadline in front of us,” Ryan told a Washington policy conference sponsored by AT&T. We had an ideal calendar in front of us, which was to have this processed through the system in April. But it was a calendar that I laid out for 2017 that clearly has room to breathe.”
“We’re in the breathing room right now,” he said. “But we’ve got time to figure this out.”
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