SC congressional Republicans are divided over Ryan’s health care plan

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., left, shakes hands with World War II veteran Francis Hughes of South Carolina when 66 World War II and Korean War veterans from Columbia, S.C., visit the World War II Memorial in Washington on May 11, 2016.
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., left, shakes hands with World War II veteran Francis Hughes of South Carolina when 66 World War II and Korean War veterans from Columbia, S.C., visit the World War II Memorial in Washington on May 11, 2016. McClatchy

The Republicans in South Carolina’s congressional delegation are far from agreement on the GOP leadership’s latest plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Interviews with Republicans in the state’s delegation reveal two camps: one ready to stand behind House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan, in many cases without having the time to fully review it, and a second unwilling to jump on board out of concern that it leaves too much of former President Barack Obama’s initiative in place.

Rep. Mark Sanford, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, called Ryan’s plan a “watered down” version of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s January bill, which would have required a “clean” repeal of Obamacare.

“I see leadership’s health care plan as an opening proposal,” Sanford said, adding that fellow Republicans shouldn’t “lower the bar” in their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he's "proud" to support the House Republican health care bill and hopes Congress will pass it very quickly.

“Inasmuch as President Trump views many things as a negotiation, I’m quite sure he would rarely take any party’s opening bid. The debate that is forming will allow conservatives to enhance and improve what has been proposed, and I think this could represent a win for patients, health care providers and the taxpayer alike.”

Sanford’s not alone.

“My biggest concern thus far is that the current plan falls short of the promise we made to fully repeal Obamacare,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, also a member of the Freedom Caucus, wrote on Facebook. “The current bill leaves large portions of that law intact, including some of the taxes. Sen. Paul is calling this ‘Obamacare Lite.’ I’ve also heard it called ‘Obamacare 2.0’ and ‘Obamacare Repair.’ Any way you cut it, it is difficult to say that this is the repeal bill that millions of Americans have been hoping for.”

Reps. Tom Rice and Joe Wilson disagreed.

“Yeah, it’s not perfect. There’s certainly things I would change, but it’s a dramatic move forward from where we are today,” said Rice, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which cleared the bill over an early hurdle on Thursday.

“I’m sure there are some people that are happy (with Obamacare), but the majority are really disappointed,” Rice told McClatchy. “And it’s not going to last. We’re moving from something that’s unsustainable to something that’s more sustainable, and I’m proud of it.”

Rice would not mention specific concerns about the Ryan plan but said he understood the arguments on both sides and wanted to “make sure there’s a smooth transition and not a disruption in what people want.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer discussed the GOP health care bill during Thursdays press briefing. When journalists brought up concerns raised about the current plan by some Republicans in congress like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Spicer said

South Carolina’s Republican members aren’t the only conservatives divided over the Ryan plan. The legislation has reportedly fragmented Republicans into several factions.

Wilson, however, was optimistic about the new legislation, lauding the bill as a move that “puts people in charge of their health care – not the federal government.”

“Families in the 2nd Congressional District and across the country have seen firsthand how Obamacare has failed — destroying jobs, increasing premiums, spiraling deductibles and lack of health care choices,” Wilson said in a statement Tuesday. “We need a real solution that gives everyone access to quality, affordable insurance.”

As of Feb. 2, enrollment in the Affordable Care Act had dropped in South Carolina from 216,000 to 194,440, according to Ann Roberson, the public information officer for the South Carolina Department of Insurance.

In the Senate, Lindsey Graham has urged his fellow conservatives to slow down, saying he is concerned about “doing things right.” And Tim Scott’s office said he was not ready to take a position on the legislation moving through the House.

“Sen. Scott is glad to see the repeal and replace process continue with the introduction of this new legislation,” said Chaffon Davis, Scott’s press assistant. “He continues to review the new House bill, as well as discussions with his colleagues in the Senate.”

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Jim Clyburn, the only Democratic representative in the South Carolina delegation, joined a chorus of fellow Democrats in condemning the bill.

“The Republican ACA ‘more cost, less care’ bill is a big loser for millions of America’s seniors, low-income citizens and people who may get sick,” Clyburn told McClatchy by email. “It is a big winner for insurance companies, their CEOs and very wealthy people. I hope Congress will have the fortitude to reject it.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy has not addressed the issue and multiple attempts to reach him have gone unanswered.

Donovan Harrell: 202-383-6044, @dono_harrell