×

Paul Ryan: House 'is willing' to work with Senate on health-care plan

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan says the House "is willing" to go to a conference committee with the Senate to reach a health-care deal
  • Four Republican senators said they would not support a Senate provision without an assurance that the House would commit to a conference

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that his chamber was open to going to a conference committee to reach an Obamacare repeal deal with the Senate — but expressed doubts that his Republican counterparts could pass any major overhaul of the health-care system.

"If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do," Ryan said in a statement. "The reality, however, is that repealing and replacing Obamacare still ultimately requires the Senate to produce 51 votes for an actual plan."

Ryan's statement came after four Republican senators shredded the GOP's "skinny" Obamacare repeal plan, but said they could vote for it if they got an assurance that they could craft something better in a conference committee with the House.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., later told reporters that Ryan's statement was not sufficient. It's unclear now if Ryan's statement will satisfy the demands for the other three senators, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Bill Cassidy, R-La.

Ryan did not specifically say whether the House would take up the skinny repeal plan if the Senate passes it.

"The House remains committed to finding a solution and working with our Senate colleagues, but the burden remains on the Senate to demonstrate that it is capable of passing something that keeps our promise, as the House has already done," Ryan said. "Until the Senate can do that, we will never be able to develop a conference report that becomes law. We expect the Senate to act first on whatever the conference committee produces."

A conference committee can form when the Senate and House pass differing versions of bills and aim to strike one agreement that both chambers can then vote to approve. The House already passed an Obamacare replacement plan, the highly unpopular American Health Care Act. It is unclear if that process can produce a plan that enough Senate Republicans will support.

Here's Ryan's full statement:

"It is now obvious that the only path ahead is for the Senate to pass the narrow legislation that it is currently considering. This package includes important reforms like eliminating the job-killing employer mandate and the requirement that forces people to purchase coverage they don't want. Still it is not enough to solve the many failures of Obamacare. Senators have made clear that this is an effort to keep the process alive, not to make law. If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do. The reality, however, is that repealing and replacing Obamacare still ultimately requires the Senate to produce 51 votes for an actual plan. The House remains committed to finding a solution and working with our Senate colleagues, but the burden remains on the Senate to demonstrate that it is capable of passing something that keeps our promise, as the House has already done. Until the Senate can do that, we will never be able to develop a conference report that becomes law. We expect the Senate to act first on whatever the conference committee produces. Obamacare is collapsing and hurting American families. We have to keep working at this until we get the job done."

Separate GOP plans to immediately replace the Affordable Care Act or repeal it with a two-year transition period failed in the Senate amid Republican divisions. The skinny proposal is seen as a final attempt to push a plan through the Senate before the House would have to approve a proposal as well.

Senate Republicans have not unveiled text yet of a "skinny" repeal bill, which they aim to pass on Thursday night or Friday. Provisions of it may depend on what can garner a majority of support in the Senate during a string of upcoming votes.

A Congressional Budget Office score requested by Democrats estimated that a skinny repeal plan would leave 16 million more people uninsured and make premiums about 20 percent higher than under current law. However, that report was based only on widely reported outlines of a skinny repeal proposal, meaning it does not capture whatever concrete bill the Senate will field.