(Corrects to say Monday, not Tuesday, in third paragraph)
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, March 8 A potentially lengthy U.S.
legislative fight over replacement of the Obamacare health law
gets underway on Wednesday as two House of Representatives
committees begin negotiating over changes to a Republican plan
backed by President Donald Trump.
Both Democrats and Republicans are expected to try to
reshape legislation that dismantles key provisions of the 2010
Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President Barack Obama's
signature domestic policy achievement.
The Republican plan unveiled on Monday would scrap
Obamacare's requirement that most Americans obtain medical
insurance and replace its income-based subsides with a system of
fixed tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 to coax people to purchase
private insurance on the open market.
The plan faces significant hurdles in Congress. Conservative
Republican lawmakers and lobbying groups slammed it for looking
too much like the Obamacare program they have been trying to
kill for years. Democrats criticized it as rolling back health
insurance coverage gains for millions of Americans while
benefiting the rich by repealing healthcare-related taxes.
Meanwhile, insurers questioned the assumptions underlying
Republicans' claims that the plan will reduce premiums, while
some experts said it would encourage younger, healthier people
to forgo coverage.
On Wednesday, The House Ways and Means Committee, with
jurisdiction over taxes, and the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, which oversees health issues, will each pursue
separate "mark-up" sessions to consider amendments to the plan.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has pledged that he will deliver a
218-vote majority needed for passage in the House. But further
changes could be made in the Senate, where Republicans can only
afford to lose two votes from their thin majority in the face of
unified opposition from Democrats.
Conservative Republican Senator Rand Paul on Tuesday
declared the plan "dead on arrival" in broadcast interviews and
said he wanted a repeal-only option.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady told Fox
News Channel late on Tuesday that he would "listen to good ideas
to improve it" but said the plan achieves the party's goals.
"It repeals all the taxes, all the mandates, all the
penalties, all the subsidies. This is Obamacare gone and there's
no arguing about that," Brady said.
But he also said that much of the bill's fate was in the
Senate's hands and he was "counting on" Senate Republicans to
support it without major changes.
Trump, who praised the Republican healthcare plan but said
it was "out for review and negotiation," plans to meet
conservative congressional leaders to discuss it on Wednesday,
according to a schedule released by the White House.
In an evening Twitter message, Trump said he was "sure" that
Senator Paul would "come along with the new and great healthcare
program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!"
(Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Nick Tattersall, Robert