Ryan: ‘We Will Have 218 Votes’ to Pass Our Repeal-and-Replace Plan

By Susan Jones | March 8, 2017 | 7:14 AM EST

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) talks about the Republican leadership's repeal and replace plan at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (Screen grab from C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) – House committees will begin marking up the Republican leadership’s repeal-and-replace plan on Wednesday, and then it will head to the Budget and Rules Committees next week.

And when the bill finally makes it to the House floor, “We will have 218 votes,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“This is the beginning of the legislative process. We've got a few weeks -- we'll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor, I can guarantee you that,” he said.

Conservatives dislike the bill, which retains some elements of Obamacare and creates a new tax-credit entitlement. They say they will try to amend the bill as it works its way through committee.

But Ryan said there’s a lot in the current bill for conservatives to like:

Let me just give you a list of what's in here that conservatives should be excited about. Number one, the bill repeals Obamacare. Number two, it repeals the Obamacare taxes, which is a massive tax relief for families for the cost of healthcare. It repeals the Obamacare spending, like the Medicaid expansion and Obamacare subsidies. It repeals the Obamacare mandates on individuals and businesses.

It ends funding for Planned Parenthood and sends that money to community health centers. It has a Medicaid per-capita block grant. That's the biggest entitlement reform anybody has seen here for decades. It nearly doubles the amount of money people can contribute to health savings accounts. That is a fundamental part and a crucial part of conservative healthcare policy.

It equalizes the tax treatment of healthcare. I've been doing conservative healthcare reform for 20 years. For 20 years, we as conservatives have been arguing for equalizing the tax treatment of healthcare for all Americans, so we can have a vibrant, individual market, so we have choice in competition.

Look: There are two ways of fixing healthcare. Have the government run it and ration it and put price controls. That's what Obamacare does; that's what the left wants. Or, do what conservatives have been arguing for, for years, have a vibrant, free market where people get to do what they want. They buy what they want. Equalize the tax treatment. Stop the discrimination in the tax code against people who want to go out in a free marketplace and buy the healthcare of their choosing. This does that.

This lowers costs, creates competition, it allows choices. The most important thing that this does is it takes power out of Washington, takes power out of the bureaucracy and puts it back to doctors and patients where it belongs.

A reporter noted that by some estimates, 10 million people could lose their coverage without a government requirement that they buy insurance.

“Is that acceptable to you?” the reporter asked Ryan.

“Look, what matters is that we're lowering the cost of healthcare and giving people access to affordable healthcare plans,” Ryan responded. He noted that under government mandates, “everybody buys what we say they have to buy.”

“I just think that’s bogus,” Ryan said. “The fact is, we're not going to have the government tell you what you must do, tell you what you must buy. We're going to allow the market to do that. We're going to let people decide what they want to do with their lives, and we want to lower costs by having more competition and equalizing the tax treatment of healthcare, having health savings accounts, that gives people the freedom to buy the plan they want and can afford.”

Ryan said Republicans are fulfilling their campaign promise to end the “nightmare” of Obamacare, and he noted that if Republicans did nothing, the law would collapse on its own, leaving millions of people without affordable healthcare.

“We are doing a mercy -- an act of mercy by repealing this law and replacing it with patient-centered healthcare reforms that we as conservatives have been arguing for and fighting for, for years.”

Ryan described what he envisions as the three phases of health care reform.

The first phase is passing the repeal-and-replace bill through budget reconciliation, which means the bill can’t be filibustered in the Senate.

Phase two involves Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price deregulating the marketplace. “There’s something like 1,400 instances in this law that gives the secretary discretion,” Ryan said. “Secretary Tom Price…will use that discretion to bring more market freedom and market stabilization. So, that's phase two.

“Phase three is to pass the bills that we want to pass that we cannot put in reconciliation because of those budget rules. Ryan said those bills will deal with insurance shopping across state lines; medical liability reforms; and letting people and small businesses buy health insurance in nationwide buying pools through their trade associations.

But none of those provisions can be put in a reconciliation bill, Ryan said.