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Thune: 'We Don't Want Anybody to be Harmed' by Too-Rapid Obamacare Repeal

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) speaks alongside other GOP leaders after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on Nov. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) emphasized that the repeal of Obamacare, even though it will likely happen quickly in the new Congress, may take years to implement as “we don’t want anybody to be harmed by any of the changes that are made.”

But, the third-ranking Senate GOP added, “we know that changes have to be made because this is unsustainable in this current form.”

Thune told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that Senate Democrats, who have been chiding Republicans about not having an Obamacare replacement ready, have been “a little sore about it” because “they lost a lot of elections over Obamacare.”

“And so Democrats acknowledge something has to be done, they don’t want to vote to repeal it because they have a lot invested in passing it in the first place, but you can’t help it,” he said.

As far as timing of repeal, “it took thousands of pages to pass it, it took thousands and thousands more of regulations to implement it — and it took a lot of time, and so, obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight.”

“But we’re going to allow for a reasonable transition, a phase in period to make sure that people are not harmed. We want to repair the damage that’s been done, the families and businesses as a result to the passage of Obamacare. Starts with repealing it, and then we have to go in a step-by-step way and replace it with something that works a lot better,” Thune said.

Pressed on a timeline, the Republican Conference chairman said the “sooner the better.”

“But I think in terms of the way that this could get structured, it still being debated whether it’s a year, two years, three years. But I think it’s going to be a transition,” he added.

After a policy luncheon on Tuesday, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) pledge to repeal Obamacare in the first week of the 115th Congress: “bring it on.”

“They don’t know what to do. They don’t know how long — they don’t want — they know they can’t just repeal it, so they say we’ll do it three years from now. But then the Freedom Caucus says, ‘Oh no, don’t do it three years from now,'” Schumer said, referring to the bloc of House conservatives.

“They have nothing to put in its place, and believe me, just repealing Obamacare even though they have nothing to put in its place and saying they’ll do it sometime down the road will cause huge calamity from one end of American to the other. They don’t know what to do. They’re like the dog that caught the bus.”