The Latest: Ryan downplays divisions over new health law

AP News
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Posted: Feb 28, 2017 5:52 PM
The Latest: Ryan downplays divisions over new health law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is finalizing a $30 billion supplemental Pentagon request for this budget year to serve as a down payment on his promise to build up the military.

That's according to administration and Capitol Hill officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal isn't final.

It's likely to be submitted officially in a couple of weeks in a catchall spending bill wrapping up last year's unfinished budget business. That measure would also contain initial funding for Trump's border wall and could be considered in April.

The Pentagon boost comes as top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are recoiling from huge Trump-proposed cuts to State Department diplomatic and foreign aid programs. The Kentucky Republican says he can't support the cuts and doesn't think they could pass.

—By Andrew Taylor

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2 p.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee says she will oppose Rep. Ryan Zinke's nomination as Interior secretary.

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington says she is not convinced that Zinke is able to "stand up" to President Donald Trump and prevent oil, gas and mining companies from exploiting public lands.

Zinke is in his second term representing Montana in Congress.

Cantwell also said Zinke appears willing to support transfer of some federal lands to states and worries that he's open to weakening or repealing national monuments recently designated by former President Barack Obama, including Bears Ears in Utah.

The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to confirm Zinke's nomination on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Interior controls more than 400 million acres of public land, mostly in the West.

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10:23 a.m.

Facing growing Republican opposition, Speaker Paul Ryan is insisting that the White House and Congress are working together on a plan to repeal and replace the health care law that will eventually attract unified support.

The Wisconsin Republican told reporters on Tuesday that there "aren't rival plans." But he acknowledged the divisions, saying there will be "churning" in any legislative process.

Ryan promised that eventually Republicans would be unified.

Earlier in the day, three Senate Republicans — Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz — dismissed the emerging House plan as "Obamacare lite" and said they would oppose it.

Several House conservatives also have said they can't support the plan being crafted by GOP leadership.

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9:35 a.m.

Three key conservative GOP senators are announcing their opposition to health care plans emerging in the House.

Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas say they will oppose "Obamacare Lite" — as some are now dubbing House leadership-backed plans to remake the Affordable Care Act.

Their announcement comes as the two leading conservative coalitions in the House have also come out against the plans.

The opposition from conservatives greatly complicates leadership plans to pass legislation in the House before the Easter holiday that would repeal former President Barack Obama's health law and replace it with a different system built around tax credits, expanded health savings accounts, and high-risk pools.

Leadership insists no final decisions have been made and everything is on track.

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7:45 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says it doesn't concern him that President Donald Trump doesn't offer more detailed plans to fulfill his lofty campaign promises because "I see him as more of a chairman."

Ryan made the remark in an interview on NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday.

Ryan, who has a reputation for being a policy wonk, was asked whether Trump's broad-brush campaign promises are frustrating. Trump, for example, campaigned on repealing "Obamacare" but hasn't yet proposed a replacement, now saying "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

Ryan said he's not frustrated: "I see him as more of a chairman, as a president, much like many successful presidents have been, where he gets people around him who are detailed people who can execute those plans."

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7:40 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is promising a new health care system that would replace "Obamacare," reduce costs for consumers and give patients more choices.

Ryan is shrugging off comments by his predecessor, Ohio Republican John Boehner, who said last week that Republicans will never agree on such a complicated and divisive issue. Boehner predicted that Congress will only fix aspects of it and "put a more conservative box around it."

When asked about Boehner's comment, Ryan told NBC's "Today" show that "that is not what we're doing."

Ryan didn't provide details on the bill, other than to say it will be based off previous ideas from conservatives.

Ryan says "we really believe we are in a rescue mission here to step in and prevent this collapse from occurring."

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3:30 a.m.

Congressional Republicans are hoping for clarity from President Donald Trump on key issues like health care when he delivers his first speech to a joint meeting of Congress. It comes as Republicans are discovering, a month into Trump's administration, how difficult it will be to make good on their many promises now that they control Washington in full.

The GOP's long-stated plans to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care law and replace it with something better are running into major difficulties even before legislation is officially released. After a week of raucous town hall meetings, Republicans are back in Washington and key conservatives have begun to denounce House leadership plans based on a leaked draft and reports that the bill would cost more than expected while covering fewer people than the Affordable Care Act.

Asked whether Republicans were nearing consensus on the overall legislation, GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said: "I think we're a long way from that."