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The White House is steering talks to dismantle the Affordable Care Act after a previous effort collapsed last month, but leaving the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee out of the thick of things may not be the best move, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said.
“I expressed that frustration over the last couple of weeks. That’s something I am sensitive to. Many of us on the committee have spent years on these policies of health care and to just see it kind of being pulled away and put behind the scenes, potentially to me, is not the wisest course to take,” Reed, a committee member, told reporters April 4.
House Republicans have been venting over the failure of the bill to rewrite the health care system. The bill was pulled from the floor before a March 24 vote. Reed has previously said a lesson learned from that flop was that the sooner details of plans can be shared publicly, the better the final product.
The Trump administration has been pushing for members to back a new health plan, and dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to the Capitol on April 4 to talk with them. The proposal would give states the freedom to waive some of the ACA requirements, such as what elements need to be covered under insurance plans—a provision that falls under the jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
While House leadership has been reticent to set a timeline for a vote, lawmakers have limited legislative time between a two-week April recess and must-pass spending bills.
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a Ways and Means member, attended an April 3 meeting at the White House to talk health care, he confirmed to Bloomberg BNA. The White House has been very helpful to “try to see if we can get people to come together,” he said.
Tiberi’s involvement in talks, as well as that of Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), “bodes well for an outcome,” Reed said.
Brady told reporters April 3 that the committee is keeping an eye on health care talks and is helping when asked, in order to get the 216 votes needed to pass the bill. A committee spokeswoman declined to comment, deferring to Brady’s comments.
After the repeal effort stalled last month, lawmakers said they were committed to moving on to tax reform. But as talks have continued this week, some lawmakers said there is still a desire to take care of health care before making tax changes.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a Ways and Means member, said the committee is holding several one-on-one meetings with other lawmakers, including members of the House Freedom Caucus, to brief them on the tax overhaul effort, but that those efforts will be held up until there is consensus on how to address health care legislation.
“Look, the health care issue has to be dealt with before we do anything else,” he said.
With assistance from Laura Davison in Washington.
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