Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that if Republicans decide to scrap Obamacare and kick the can down the road on a replacement, President-elect Trump could lose the working-class support that won him the White House.
President Obama headed to Capitol Hill this morning to meet behind closed-doors with the House and Senate Democratic caucuses to strategize on congressional Republicans’ first legislative priority of the 115th Congress: the repeal of Obamacare.
“The president will discuss the progress made thanks to the Affordable Care Act, as well as the dangers posed by congressional Republicans’ stated strategy to repeal the law before proposing any replacement,” the White House said.
Manchin, who was not serving in Congress when the law was originally passed, told MSNBC this morning that he could not “in good conscience” attend the meeting with Obama.
“I can’t do it. If anyone listened and paid attention to what the American people said when they voted, they want this place to work… all the respect of all these people involved, but we have the outgoing president coming up here today to talk to only Democrats — only Democrats. We have the incoming vice president coming up to talk only to Republicans. That’s not what makes this place work and that’s really what’s wrong with the place. I just think it’s absolutely wrong,” the senator said.
“One hundred and seventy-two thousand West Virginians have healthcare for the first time,” he continued. “It’s not perfect. We’ve got a lot of repairing to do. But to say you’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and repeal the whole thing — here we have the incoming vice president, who had Medicaid expansion in Indiana, now saying they want to repeal the whole thing.”
Manchin said he’s “willing to look at replacing, repairing, doing anything that we can to make it better, but put something on the table.”
As a budget resolution introduced Tuesday by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the repeal of Obamacare can pass with a simple majority. The replacement bill would need to clear the 60-vote procedural hurdle. Republicans hold 52 seats in the upper chamber.
“I just can’t believe the Republicans will go down this path and just throw it out and say trust us, in two or three years we’ll fix it… I’ve been here for six years. We haven’t fixed very many things and anyone who has trust or belief that we will fix it, they’re living in fantasyland,” Manchin said.
The senator noted that Trump won West Virginia by 43 percent.
“Now, a lot of the people didn’t know, and they really still don’t know, how they got healthcare called the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. But I will assure you one thing, they’ll know who did it and got rid of it for them,” Manchin added. “They’ll know that. They might not know how they got it, but they’ll know how they got rid of it. Not too complicated back home.”
Manchin said he’s like to see “a lot of changes”: “I think it has to be market-driven. I think there has to be more products out there to offer. You can’t force someone to buy a product they don’t want and then fine them if they don’t buy it. That’s not going to work and it hasn’t worked.”
“So, ready to sit down in a concrete way and say OK, Democrats and Republicans, let’s be Americans. How do we fix this to make sure the most vulnerable Americans have some sort of health care that’s affordable and we can afford to offer it? With that being said, there shouldn’t be winners and losers. There shouldn’t be a person that has small business that’s paying higher deductibles and higher premiums because they’re subsidizing somebody else,” he said.
“Nobody wants to have that concrete talk. They voted over 50 times throw it out, throw it out. Well, OK, you’ve got a chance to throw it out. You probably will get the votes to throw it out. You won’t get my vote. I am not voting to repeal unless I see something that I think will improve it or make it better.”