Leading GOP senator says "I don't see a comprehensive health-care plan" passing Congress this year

Key Points
  • Sen. Richard Burr said House health bill is "dead on arrival" in Senate.
  • Health-care law is "too important to get wrong," Burr said.
  • The GOP is struggling to repeal Obamacare despite controlling Congress and the White House.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
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A top GOP senator said he does not believe Congress will pass a bill to repeal and replace key parts of Obamacare this year.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina also said the deeply unpopular Republican health bill passed by the House to undo much of Obamacare is "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

"It's ... not a good plan," Burr said in an interview with WXII 12 News in his home state.

"It's unlikely that we'll get a health-care deal," said Burr, head of the Senate's Intelligence Committee. "I don't see a comprehensive health-care plan this year."

"At the end of the day, this is too important to get wrong," he said, when a reporter pointed out that his fellow Republicans are keen to pass a bill this year.

Burr said that because a health-care bill is unlikely to be passed into law this year, he is focused on seeing what can be done to help residents of his home state, Iowa and Tennessee, where there is a dearth of competition among Obamacare insurers.

Republicans have campaigned for years on promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health-care law that expanded insurance coverage to about 20 million Americans under President Barack Obama.

Republicans complain that the ACA led to unaffordable insurance rates for many people in the individual health plan market, and also objected to the law's mandate requiring most people to have some form of coverage or pay a fine.

The election of President Donald Trump last fall, combined with their control of both chambers of Congress gave Republicans this year their first real chance at accomplishing their goal of getting rid of Obamacare.

But GOP leaders struggled to pass a bill in the House that would move toward that goal. They only managed to win approval for it by a single vote on May 4.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that that bill, if it became law, would lead to 23 million more people becoming uninsured by 2026 than would be the case if Obamacare remained in place.

A number of Republican senators before Burr have dismissed the idea that they would approve the House bill in its current form.

Instead, a group of GOP senators has been meeting to discuss crafting their own bill.

Conservative senators want a bill that would more aggressively undo Obamacare. But moderates in the GOP caucus oppose rolling back gains in health coverage, particularly those seen as a result of the ACA's expansion of Medicaid benefits to more poor adults.

Some moderates also oppose defunding of the contraceptive rights group Planned Parenthood, as Republican leaders desire.

Watch: AARP warns Republicans about Obamacare replacement bill