Republicans’ long-promised effort to repeal and replace “Obamacare” was in serious trouble Friday ahead of a do-or-die vote demanded by President Donald Trump.
Yet several House GOP lawmakers and a GOP chief of staff predicted a vote would be postponed past Thursday night.
On Tuesday, President Trump traveled to Capitol Hill to sell Republicans on the deal in person, telling the conference they’d be “fools” to oppose the legislation and that doing so could cost Republicans their House majority in 2018. Republicans can not afford to lose more than 21 votes from their own party, since Democrats are united in opposition.
The decision was taken after talks between the White House and the Freedom Caucus, the main opposition group, yielded no results.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who attended the Wednesday meeting led by Pence and other White House officials, said based on the discussion at the meeting “the resolve to vote no was strengthened” by those Freedom Caucus members in the room.
The measure would repeal major parts of Obama’s health law, capping future funding for Medicaid and cutting tax increases for high-income families, health insurance companies and drug makers.
In a historic defeat for House Republicans, Speaker Paul Ryan admitted failure and called it a disappointing day for the Republican Party.
After studying the bill, he said, it fell short of that goal.
All three trace their political roots back to conservative politics on Capitol Hill, roots that White House officials say Trump administration has found invaluable in trying help usher Trump’s first piece of legislation through an unexpectedly hard Republican-controlled House.
Lawmakers debated whether to pass the same-day rule on the House floor this morning, but went into recess.
Conservative Republicans said their Thursday meeting with President Trump produced progress but no deal on the repeal bill, and Trump was meeting with moderates who have grown more restive with reports of potential changes to satisfy the conservatives. “Instead of lowering costs or improving the quality of care, this bill would force millions of Americans to pay more money for worse coverage”, she said.
The Republican legislation would halt Mr Obama’s tax penalties against people who do not buy coverage and cut the government Medicaid programme for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded.
The bill repeals tax credits that people can use to purchase health insurance and replaces them with a new tax credit that is less generous for most. “We’d like to vote tomorrow and let’s get this done for the American people”. The bill would block federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.
In a danger sign for Republicans, a Quinnipiac University poll found that people disapprove of the Republican legislation by 56% to 17%, with 26% undecided. Trump’s handling of health care was viewed unfavorably by 6 in 10. “We learned a lot about the vote-getting process”, Trump told reporters at the White House. “You do not bring up your bill just to be spiteful on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act”. Trump wrote on Twitter. But when they started making calls they quickly discovered the support was much weaker than that.
Congressional leaders have increasingly put the onus on the president to close the deal, seemingly seeking to ensure that he takes ownership of the legislation – and with it, ownership of defeat if that is the outcome.
At least 30 Republicans had said they would oppose the bill, according to ABC News’ latest whip count, meaning Republicans could fall at least nine votes short.
Republicans had never built a constituency for the legislation, and in the end the almost uniform opposition from hospitals, doctors, nurses, the AARP, consumer groups and others weighed heavily with many members.
Conservatives complain the Republican bill doesn’t do enough to erase Obama’s law. The Chamber of Commerce was in favor.
At rallies in Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, this week meant to drum up support for the bill, Trump spent little time discussing specifics and made clear he saw it as a step on the road in a broader agenda.
But even if Trump is able to get conservatives on board, he still faces a struggle in pushing the bill through the House.