Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said on Wednesday that following a lunch meeting with President Donald Trump, Republican senators would restart their push for a full and immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
A day earlier when a total of four GOP senators said they opposed a measure supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Republican leader and Trump said they would push for a “repeal now, replace later” measure, a move that also drew immediate GOP opposition.
Cotton said that a revived effort to pass an immediate repeal and replacement measure would now be given another try with a goal towards a Monday vote.
“We had a very productive and constructive lunch with President Trump at the White House today and we’re still going to be working on negotiating a replacement bill right now that we can vote on next week,” said Cotton, in an exclusive interview with Talk Business & Politics.
“We’re going to continue to try to find 50 Republican votes. We’ll start with the measure that’s under consideration until Monday night. Try to tweak it in various ways to make sure that those people who need a little bit of extra financial assistance can get it to pay for their premiums or pay for their deductibles. Maybe also change the Obamacare regulations so Arkansans will have more choice in the kind of insurance plan that they are their family need.”
Under the scenario laid out in the interview, it’s possible that more Medicaid funding could be found for states whose senators and governors have indicated they would be harmed by the present bill that was stalled. Cotton said Arkansas could be one of those states.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to find a path forward to get to 50 votes, but I think we should certainly keep working on it. I’m glad President Trump asked us to do that. There’s a renewed commitment in the Republican caucus to do so,” he said.
Cotton also addressed conflicting positions he seemed to take in recent months. In 2015, he voted for a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a yet-to-be-determined plan two years later. That approach had been the recent default position for Republicans, although three GOP senators had indicated they would not support that plan. Cotton said on Tuesday that he advocated that approach, but in January 2017 he told Meet the Press “it would not be the right path” to repeal the ACA without a plan moving forward.
“Repealing Obamacare and working in a replacement over a two-year period isn’t the best solution. It seemed like earlier this week that was the most practical solution, given where we were,” said Cotton. “In January, frankly, I had a hard time imagining that so many Republican senators who had campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare wouldn’t be so enthusiastic to doing so when it got down to brass tacks.”
Watch Sen. Cotton’s full interview below.