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Georgia’s lone GOP health care holdout urges leaders to try again

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Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, during a campaign debate last year. (AJC special/Jonathan Phillips)

WASHINGTON – The lone Georgia Republican to go against his party leaders on health care thinks the GOP should take another stab at repealing and replacing Obamacare.

“Our hearts are ready,” U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Monroe said in a brief interview Tuesday.

A member of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of ultra-conservatives who joined with moderate Republicans to sink the American Health Care Act last week, Hice said the current bill is not ready for prime time but that Republicans should “step back” and “fix those issues that need to be addressed.”

“It can be done,” Hice said. “It’s what the American people sent us here to do.”

 



 

Hice’s remarks came not long after Speaker Paul Ryan emerged from a private meeting with House Republicans to also declare that his party’s health care effort was not dead.

“We are going to work together and listen together until we get this right,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters. “It is just too important.”

Their change in tune is a pretty stunning one. Four days ago, Ryan and the White House conceded that Obamacare was the “law of the land” for the foreseeable future and the GOP should move onto other legislative priorities like tax reform.

What is unclear is whether enough has changed in recent days to close the gulf between GOP moderates, who worry that too many people would lose health coverage under their party’s plan, and Freedom Caucusers, who said the legislation would leave too much of Obamacare’s architecture in place and keep premiums too high.

Hice on was careful not to fault Trump, even after the president tweeted Monday that the Freedom Caucus “was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:”

“Certainly I can understand his frustration. We’re all frustrated with this, but at the end of the day we’re going be back on board and we’re going to get this job done. It’s going to be something he will be proud of and the American people will be proud of.”

Hice’s message was undercut in part by Senate Republicans. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday said Democrats “now have the law that they wrote in place and we’ll see how that works out.”

Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue disagreed, saying “we’ve got to do something” on health care.

“If we don’t do something I think it’s going to collapse under its own weight. So yeah, I would welcome any conversation,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, did not mince words when asked about a possible revival of the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan.

“A bunch of hot air,” he said.

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