WASHINGTON — Congress is ready to start major work this week on dismantling the Affordable Care Act, but conservatives are fuming over lost momentum that they fear could doom a repeal.
Lawmakers missed a nonbinding deadline to deliver details of a repeal plan Friday, and left a Republican retreat in Philadelphia without reaching consensus on a replacement package that an increasing number of Republicans want to see agreed to before the 2010 law is taken apart.
Complicating the effort, Congress is struggling to find its footing with an unpredictable administration whose actions in only one week have distracted from what lawmakers thought was the top item on the Republican agenda.
Some conservatives worry that delay could be costly, perhaps even fatal, sapping lawmakers’ drive to repeal and sidelining the effort in favor of other priorities, such as keeping the federal government running.
“Right now you are seeing the question of replace stopping the momentum of repeal,” said James Wallner, a former Senate aide and group vice president for research at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Before you know it, you are into the late summer or fall because you have to do stuff like funding the government, and you haven’t done (repeal) yet. You can see very quickly how you end up in a place where you’re just trying to shore up the existing system.”
But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an on-again, off-again adviser to the president, insisted that Congress will not get sidetracked with Trump at the top.
“It is inevitable that it will be replaced,” Gingrich said of the health care law.
“There is a very deep awareness, which the president has emphasized, that you cannot leave 23 million people worried about their health insurance,” Gingrich said. “You can’t just repeal with a vacuum and you go from the Democrats owning it to us owning it. Why should we rush in to own their problem?”