Vice President Pence demanded Congress “step up” and “do their job” by taking action to replace ObamaCare after the collapse of Republicans’ latest health care bill, stepping up pressure on his former congressional colleagues to deliver on a campaign promise.
The vice president has maintained ties on Capitol Hill, where he once served as a House member, but made clear Tuesday morning that the administration’s patience is wearing thin.
“Inaction is not an option. Congress needs to step up. Congress needs to do their job and Congress needs to do their job now,” he said, during an address to a National Retail Federation summit in Washington.
He spoke as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was moving forward on a last-resort bid to scrap ObamaCare, pushing to repeal the 2010 health law now and replace it later. Pence said Tuesday that he and President Trump “fully support” that plan. He said the Senate should either go that route, or return to the legislation already on the table.
“ObamaCare has failed, and ObamaCare must go,” he said.
McConnell, R-Ky., is trying to press ahead after several GOP senators said late Monday they would not support the bill he unveiled last week -- after his first plan also failed to attract enough support to even get a vote.
McConnell says the Senate will “in the coming days” revive a 2015 measure -- passed by the Republican-led Congress but vetoed by then-President Barack Obama -- to repeal ObamaCare with a two-year delay. He said such an effort will “provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.”
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, McConnell said: “I regret the effort to repeal and immediately replace will not be successful, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. … [T]his does not have to be the end of the story.”
Pence and Trump appear united in their push to pressure Congress into action.
In a tweet Tuesday morning, the president blamed Democrats and some Republicans for the latest collapse, while vowing to press ahead.
"We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!" he said.
After the bill collapsed Monday night, he tweeted that Republicans should repeal ObamaCare now and “start from a clean slate.”
McConnell needs support from 50 of the chamber’s 52 Republican senators to pass such a bill. Early Monday, the bill was formally opposed only by GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine.
However, while Trump was meeting with several Republican senators who supported McConnell’s bill, GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas also announced their opposition, dashing any hopes of passage.
“We were talking about a next step,” Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Lankford, who was at the White House dinner meeting, told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning.
McConnell, lauded for his ability to present only bills that he can pass, would be taking a big risk in a repeal-only effort, though such a move would effectively fulfill Trump and congressional Republicans’ campaign vows to end ObamaCare. The program has seen rising premium costs while offering customers diminishing policy options.
Lankford, like other senators, expressed opposition over McConnell drafting the bill behind closed doors with only a handful of other lawmakers. And he joined in calls for a more open, collaborative process.
“If we can get everybody together at one time, I think we can do this,” he said.
The GOP-led House this spring passed its ObamaCare overhaul bill. No Senate Democrats support Republicans’ repeal-and-replace efforts, but have acknowledged problems with ObamaCare and have said they would work in a bipartisan effort to make fixes.
“Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.