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Ryan Argues to Hannity that Tax Credits in GOP Healthcare Bill Aren't Entitlements

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was chief lobbyist for the Republican Obamacare replacement bill Thursday, but conservatives and moderates in the Senate were indicating that their votes may not be there.

Ryan spent his weekly press conference giving a lengthy professorial lecture on the basics and benefits of the American Health Care Act, assisted by visual aids.

"We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare and we're going to do it with a three-pronged approach. Number one is what we're talking about right now... that's called reconciliation. That's the American Health Care Act. There are only so many things you can do in that bill because of the Senate floor rules for reconciliation. You can't put everything you want in that legislation because if you did, it would be filibustered and you couldn't even bring it up for a vote in the Senate," he explained.

"Number two, administrative action. This law, Obamacare, has 1,442 sections or instances that gives the secretary of HHS enormous amounts of discretion to administer healthcare, meaning I don't think Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid when they crammed this bill through ever thought Donald Trump would be president and Tom Price would be the secretary of HHS," he continued. "So, number two in our three-pronged approach, administrative action where the Health and Human Services secretary deregulates the marketplace and allows more choice and more competition to come in the marketplace."

"Number three, and this is where I think there's a lot of confusion all over the map -- additional legislation that we feel is important and necessary to give us a truly competitive healthcare marketplace. So, think of things like interstate shopping. That's a reform that we've long believed in, that we think is really important to get regulatory competition to give people even more choices."

Ryan also took his case to conservative talk radio, booking Hugh Hewitt's show Friday and calling into Sean Hannity's radio show this afternoon.

"The last thing we want to do is repeal it, and then have replace being filibustered. We want to repeal it, and put the replace in the repeal bill so that they can’t filibuster it so we can get House Republican conservative health care policy in place," Ryan told Hannity.

The speaker also argued that the tax credits in the GOP plan aren't an entitlement.

“No, that’s not an entitlement. Letting people keep more of their own money and doing what they want with it is not an entitlement," Ryan said. "...If you think letting people keep more of their own money and letting them do what they want with it is an entitlement, then you must believe this is Washington’s money."

"...So I don’t, for the life of me, understand why a person would say giving taxpayers tax credits is an entitlement.”

The GOP leadership offensive continues Friday morning with as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), and Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) face media on Capitol Hill to argue for the bill.

But Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said House Republicans need to pump the brakes and start over.

"There's no urgency here. There is no deadline. We need to get health care reform right. We don't have to get it fast," Cotton told CNN. "...Unfortunately, the House legislation is not going to achieve those results and the breakneck speed at which it's moving is designed to actually make those results probably worse. That's why I think we just need to take a pause and to deliberate more carefully and more openly, and get to a result that's actually going to make healthcare more affordable and more hassle-free for Americans."

The senator added that "there are a lot of Republicans who are saying these exact same things in private."

"Frankly, some of them on Steve Scalise's whip team are saying the same thing. I'm simply saying in public what many Republicans are voicing that the legislation as it's written, one, probably cannot pass the Senate, but two, would not solve the problems of our health care system -- problems that Obamacare made worse," Cotton said. "I think the American people care much more that we solve those problems than that we meet some kind of arbitrary legislative deadline."

Congressional GOP leaders have vowed to take up the healthcare repeal and replacement bill before the Easter recess.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporter Wednesday that "while we can forget the timeline, ultimately it's going to be up to the House and then the Senate to determine how fast it goes."

"But there are members on each of those committees, and then ultimately every member on the floor that has the ability to give input," he said.