WASHINGTON — Hard-line conservatives began an uphill fight Friday to force a fresh House vote this fall on erasing much of President Barack Obama’s health care law without an immediate replacement, the latest instance of Republican rifts in what’s been a fractious week for the GOP.
The effort by the House Freedom Caucus seemed to have no chance of passing Congress. The GOP-led Senate turned down a similar repeal-only bill last month, and top House Republicans have little interest in refighting a health care battle they were relieved to put aside after their chamber approved legislation in May.
With the party’s repeal effort collapsing last month in the Senate, the conservatives’ push gives them a fresh chance to show hard-right voters they’ve not surrendered. It also provides a chance to call attention to Republican lawmakers who’ve pledged to tear down Obama’s law but haven’t voted to do so with Donald Trump in the White House.
“It’s not about calling out anyone, it’s about doing what we said,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a Freedom Caucus leader. “And I do think people deserve to see if their member of Congress is going to do what they campaigned on.”
The conservatives filed a petition Friday calling for a House vote on dismantling Obama’s law that would not take effect until January 2019. They say that would give Congress time to enact a replacement and pressure Democrats to cooperate, a premise Democrats who oppose the repeal effort reject.
To force a House vote, conservatives need signatures of 218 lawmakers, a majority. That seems like an uphill task because many GOP moderates oppose annulling Obama’s law without a replacement they’d support, and all Democrats are opposed.
Asked how Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., views the conservatives’ push, spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, “The House has already passed a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
This week has also featured an extraordinary verbal barrage by Trump against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., over the Senate crash of the health care drive.
After tweeting caustic criticisms of McConnell, Trump insinuated to reporters that McConnell should consider resigning if he can’t push health care, tax and infrastructure legislation through his chamber. McConnell had said Trump had “excessive expectations” about how quickly Congress could pass complicated bills.