House Republicans are working on a companion to their bill replacing "Obamacare," a legislative second act that would ease cross-state sale of health insurance and limit jury awards for pain and suffering in malpractice lawsuits.
The problem: the so-called "sidecar" bill lacks the votes in the Senate.
Skeptics abound. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called it "mythical legislation" in an interview Tuesday on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. In a tweet, conservative Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., suggested "Easter basket" might be a better description.
Yet Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has said he wants to move a companion bill through the House alongside the main GOP legislation that rolls back key parts of Barack Obama's healthcare law and limits federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people.
That strategy may just help Ryan put together enough votes to get through the House, but then the sidecar would probably get detached in the Senate, where 60 votes would be needed for such legislation. Republicans only have 52 senators and they would need the support of Democrats alienated by the drive to repeal "Obamacare."
"Some of these ideas might take some of the edge off the (main) bill for people on the right in the Republican Party," said economist Joe Antos of the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute. "I don't know that it can possibly overcome the Senate problems."
At a news conference Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats will not support any legislation reshaping the healthcare law until Republicans stop trying to repeal it. If Republicans desist, Democrats would be willing to talk.
Schumer later said he isn't keen on the idea of a House companion bill. "They probably have ideas that would make it worse," he said.
Cutting regulations and spurring private market competition are the main goals behind the GOP's idea for a companion bill. Experts say that while some of the proposals sound appealing, they also have practical problems. No final decisions have been made, but here's a look at some proposals that might be in the "sidecar."