Updated on March 7, 2017 at 7:29 p.m. ET
A Republican alternative to Obamacare years in the making was on the verge of unraveling just a day after its introduction, as conservative lawmakers, advocacy groups, and industry leaders denounced it as an insufficient answer to the nation’s healthcare challenges.
Party leaders in Congress and in the Trump administration held up the American Healthcare Act as the GOP’s long-awaited deliverance on its promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with “patient-centered” market reforms, hoping to pass the bill through the House and Senate within a matter of weeks. But by Tuesday evening, it wasn’t clear whether the legislation would ever make it to a floor vote, and it was far easier to find lawmakers and organizations who were against the bill than it was to find those in favor of it.
Republicans in Congress were increasingly looking to President Trump to help lift their flagging legislation.
Despite a full-throated endorsement from the president and personal lobbying from Vice President Mike Pence, however, conservatives urged the House leadership to set aside the new bill and instead vote on a straight-forward repeal of Obamacare. They criticized the proposal as “Obamacare Lite,” arguing that it created a new entitlement program in the form of tax credits for health insurance and maintained the current law’s Medicaid expansion and some of its tax increases. “We are united on repeal, but we are divided on replacement,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky declared at an afternoon press conference. He stood alongside several members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who said the House bill was “a step in the wrong direction and as much as anything a missed opportunity.”