House GOP ‘Struggling to Get to Yes’ on Obamacare Repeal

House Republicans are facing intense pressure from the White House to vote on their stalled Obamacare repeal bill this week, but party leaders still don’t know whether they have the votes to pass it.

Conservative and moderate holdouts are still “struggling to get to yes,” said Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, the chief author of an amendment that is reviving hopes for the GOP’s health-care bill.

“I think it’s close,” said MacArthur on whether enough votes to pass the bill will be found. “But I think there is a real chance of a vote.”

The Republican vote-counting team is trying to gauge support for a vote Saturday, according to a Republican aide familiar with the process. Some lawmakers are pushing for a quick vote even as industry groups are starting to weigh in with criticism of the revised measure.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday that there has been “real progress” in winning over skeptics. “We have not yet made any decisions on a vote,” he said.

The text of the bill and a pair of amendments were posted late Wednesday on a website listing bills that may be considered this week on the House floor, but the House Rules Committee hasn’t yet scheduled a meeting that would be needed to prepare for a floor vote.

100th Day

Saturday would mark President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, although that milestone is more important to the White House than to House leadership, the Republican aide said.

“I’m still holding out for Saturday,” Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Thursday morning on CNBC.

Other undecided Republicans “are so close to yes that I’m very optimistic whether the vote is tomorrow or Saturday or next week, the votes will be there to actually pass this,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said Thursday on Bloomberg TV.

While the most recent changes to the bill have won the formal backing of the conservative Freedom Caucus, some moderates remain opposed.

The Congressional Budget Office has also told Democrats that it won’t have an updated estimate of the cost of the revised measure or how it would affect insurance coverage this week or next week, according to a tweet from Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and AARP, the lobbying group for senior citizens, said they oppose the revised Obamacare measure.

“The proposed change would still result in millions of Americans losing their health-care coverage and could make coverage unaffordable for people with pre-existing conditions,”

the AMA said in a statement.

The hospital group said allowing states to get waivers from a requirement that insurers cover so-called essential health benefits “could leave patients without access to critical health services and increase out-of-pocket spending.”

State ‘Flexibility’

MacArthur, who defines himself as a centrist, disputed criticism that his amendment would be a setback on coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

“What my amendment does, first and foremost, is it protects people with pre-existing conditions, while at the same time giving states some flexibility so that they can bring costs down,” he said.

MacArthur brushed off criticisms from fellow moderates that his amendment is designed to draw conservative support at the expense of centrists’ concerns. The senior leader of a bloc of House centrists, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, said Wednesday the amendment is “an exercise in blame-shifting” onto moderates, should the bill fail.

“I don’t think in those terms, at all,” said MacArthur. “We either win together, or we all lose.”

Ryan also said that Republicans need to deliver on their seven years of promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“I think people’s seats are at risk if we don’t do what we said we’d do,” he said when asked about political risk to moderates voting for the bill. “If you commit the sin of hypocrisy in politics” that’s a bigger risk to losing an election, Ryan said.

Bloomberg: April 27, 2017


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