Policy

Pence: Obamacare Repeal Comes First for Trump

Immigration, taxes, infrastructure to follow on envisioned agenda

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Repeal of the 2010 health care law is a top priority as soon as Donald Trump takes office in January, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in a Sunday television interview.

“Decisions have been made, that, by the president-elect, that he wants to focus out of the gate on repealing Obamacare and beginning the process of replacing Obamacare with the kind of free-market solutions that he campaigned on,” Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Pence also laid out a broad policy agenda that would follow.

“From there, we’ll work on issues ranging from ending illegal immigration, reviving our economy through tax reform, rebuilding the military, restoring the infrastructure of this country,” Pence said. “But I do hope to continue to play a supportive role to take President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda to Capitol Hill and work with leaders, frankly in both political parties, to move the country forward and make America great again.”

Pence also appeared on “Face The Nation” on CBS, where he emphasized, as the second in command, he will defer to Trump. In addition, he said that the New York billionaire’s business ties would be separated when he takes over the executive branch.

Pence stressed his desire to work across the aisle to implement Trump’s agenda, but it’s likely going to be difficult to move any rollback of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law on a bipartisan basis. It’s also unlikely complete repeal can be achieved quickly.

[Podcast: Why Trump's Drive to Replace Obamacare Faces a Bumpy Ride]

The Republican majority is expected to employ a parliamentary tool known as reconciliation to push a repeal plan through the Senate with a 51-vote majority, but only certain sections of the law can be struck under that procedure. Otherwise, 60 votes would be needed to overcome Senate Democrats’ objections.

Taking up the shelved fiscal 2017 budget resolution as well as a 2018 budget resolution later in the year could give Republicans two cracks at sweeping policy changes related to the health care law in calendar year 2017. Budget resolutions contain instructions for the procedure of reconciliation.

Lawmakers at the request of the Trump transition team have decided to punt until March spending decisions on fiscal 2017 spending, according to an announcement Thursday from House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. The current 10-week stopgap spending measure to keep government operations running expires Dec. 9.

Pence in his interviews mentioned meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

“We had a substantive conversation. We’re working with the majorities in the House and Senate to move forward an aggressive agenda,” Pence said.

Also Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said that Democrats may be able to work with Trump on some issues.

“You know, Donald Trump has talked about he is not going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He is going to work to re-establish Glass-Steagall legislation. He wants to rebuild the infrastructure,” Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Those are issues that some of us have been working on for years. And if he wants to work with us on those issues, I accept that.”

“But there is no compromise, none whatsoever, on bigotry, there is no compromise on climate change, because the future of the planet is at stake,” Sanders said.

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