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Week ahead: GOP sends mixed signals on ObamaCare | FDA nominee heads before Senate

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Week ahead: GOP sends mixed signals on ObamaCare | FDA nominee heads before Senate

It’s unclear where the ObamaCare repeal debate will go from here.

The House’s replacement bill appears dead, with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday refusing to commit to holding another repeal vote.

“What I’m encouraging our members to do is figure out what solutions get us to a bill that everyone can vote for and pass,” Ryan told reporters.

But some lawmakers are still trying to find a way to revive the legislation and outside conservative groups are putting on pressure.

Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham on Friday urged House leaders to “work with conservatives” on a bill that “truly repeals and replaces ObamaCare.”

Those efforts got even harder in the past few days, though, as the centrist Tuesday Group vowed that it would not meet with the conservative Freedom Caucus to negotiate changes.

“It was just reiterated that next time one of those calls comes in [from the Freedom Caucus], just hang up,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said of the Tuesday Group’s consensus.

Conservatives want a full repeal of the law’s mandates on insurers, including essential health benefits, which insurance companies must cover in plans.

That demand is a nonstarter with centrist Republicans, though.

And even as the ObamaCare debate continues, some key figures are moving on to the next challenge.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Thursday that he and his committee have shifted to tax reform.

Brady said daily Ways and Means work sessions are now 100 percent about reforming the tax code.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Thursday that he expects user fee agreements will be the next focus of his committee. Those agreements collect fees from drug companies and others to help fund the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.

The Senate health committee will have a hearing on that subject on Tuesday, as well.

prominently, the panel will hold a nomination hearing for Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s pick for FDA commissioner, on Wednesday.

Liberal members of the panel such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could take the opportunity to press Gottlieb about the hot-button issue of high drug prices.

Ways to speed up the FDA’s approval of drugs, including carrying out the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, is also a bipartisan focus.

After meeting with Gottlieb this month, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee, said: “I look forward to working with him on implementing the 21st Century Cures Act and bringing safe and effective drugs and medical devices to patients quickly, protecting our nation’s food supply, and promptly reauthorizing the medical product user fee agreements.”

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