This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump's transition and the outgoing Obama administration. Here's what's happening:
- Nancy Pelosi beats back challenger to retain House leadership post
- Trump tweets he will announce plans to leave his businesses to focus on presidency
- Trump picks Wall Street exec Steven Mnuchin to head Treasury
- Trade critic Wilbur Ross to lead Commerce department
- Romney and Trump discuss State over frog legs
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) cast doubt on whether the Republican-led Congress would be ready to repeal Obamacare by inauguration day, as some in President-elect Donald Trump's transition team have suggested could happen in a special session.
But McCarthy said Republicans would try to start as soon as possible on what he acknowledged would be a complicated two-step process to repeal and replace Obamacare that will consume much of 2017 and beyond.
Their plan involves retroactively passing a fiscal 2017 budget in the early weeks of Trump’s term. Such a maneuver would give Republicans the ability to unwind President Obama's signature domestic program with a simple majority vote, without facing a Democratic filibuster. Replacing the Affordable Care Act would come later, and likely extend into fiscal 2018.
"Once it’s repealed you will have hopefully fewer people playing politics and everybody coming to the table to find the best policy," McCarthy told reporters. "I just want to make sure we get it right."
McCarthy on Tuesday welcomed reports that Trump intends to nominate House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Health and Human Services Department as Congress focuses on getting rid of Obamacare.
Democrats, though, suggested that Price, a medical doctor who has championed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plans to overhaul Medicare, will face so much opposition in the Senate that he may not be confirmed.
“Try it,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the incoming Democratic minority leader. “Privatization of Medicare goes way beyond where most Americans are.”
For years, Republicans have promised to end Obamacare, and with Trump in the White House they will have their best opportunity to do so.
But McCarthy cautioned that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act will be more complicated than simply sending a bill to the White House for the president's signature.
Instead, Congress will need to insert special repeal instructions as part of the wonky budget reconciliation process. And that will take time, he said.
McCarthy said that replacing Obamacare will be even tougher than repealing it. Even though Republicans have promised their own healthcare law, they have never been able to produce an agreed-upon alternative.
To gather ideas, McCarthy said he would solicit advice from governors and state insurance commissioners. He'll be sending a letter to the states later this week.
Since Congress did not pass a 2017 budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, they hope to retroactively approve one in the weeks ahead so they can include the first part of the special instructions needed to repeal the program. But he doubted that would be completed by the time Trump takes office.
"I don’t think you can do it before [Jan.] 20th," he said. "There's only so many legislative days."
The finish the job, lawmakers will use the reconciliation process for the fiscal 2018 budget, which is due by spring. McCarthy predicted Congress would still need to pass additional legislation, which cannot be completed through the reconciliation process, in order to ensure a smooth transition.