Posted: 12:24 pm Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
By Jamie Dupree
The easy part was Tuesday night in a speech before Congress, as President Donald Trump earned thunderous applause from Republicans, as he urged lawmakers to work together and act on his legislative agenda, with his first address to Congress getting good reviews in the polls from the voters.
But now, GOP lawmakers admit, all of that talk needs to be turned into action.
“Let’s get on offense and start keeping the promises that we have made to the public,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH).
“I think there is a lot riding on us over the next two, three months,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), as he said fixing the Obama health law “will be hard.”
“Now it’s time to get to work,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA). “We’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
The most details offered up last night by President Trump came on health care, as he handed out five general guidelines for what he wants as Republicans move to repeal and replace the Obama health law.
“The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do,” the President vowed.
That push came as GOP lawmakers have been working behind the scenes on a plan.
“My understand is that it is still a work in progress,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), one of many lawmakers waiting to see what Republican leaders can bring forward on health reform.
“We don’t want to make mistakes like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and President Obama did,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).
Rep Walter Jones R-NC today on GOP health care effort: "This is a hell of a lot more complex than I thought"
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 28, 2017
“This is an ongoing process behind the scenes,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), one of many Senators pursued by reporters on the morning after the Trump speech for clues on health care.
“We’re going to have a position the White House will sign,” said Perdue. “And when the White House weighs in on that, I think you’ll see us all line up.”
The stumbling blocks for Republicans are many, like how to deal with the expanded Medicaid program under the Obama health law, whether employer provided health benefits should be taxed for the first time, and a GOP idea for refundable tax credits to help people pay for the cost of health coverage – an idea that some Republicans just don’t like.
“A tax credit is just a subsidy in another form,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I’m looking for a more free market system,” as he name-checked a plan from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that has gained some currency with more conservative Republicans.
One fear is – will the GOP just replace a cumbersome system designed by Democrats – with a cumbersome system designed by Republicans, as the GOP talks up state flexibility.
Republicans must also decide what to do on big issues like tax reform, and how best to fund a $1 trillion infrastructure plan from the President.
Democrats tried to turn up the heat as well.
“He still hasn’t given us anything specific,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as he knocked Mr. Trump for giving a lot of speeches and goals, but not making any detailed proposals.
“He still hasn’t put any legislative proposals forward,” Brown said on the Senate floor.
Into that vacuum go Republicans, who must take the lead on details.
“We gotta go to work. We gotta deliver,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL).
Those results will probably mean a lot more to the GOP than just one speech from President Trump.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.