Still no deal on Obamacare repeal after White House meeting
Thursday - 23/03/2017 14:41
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers who fail to support the Obamacare replacement health care bill will "pay a price at home."
Conservative House Republicans said a Thursday meeting with President Trump produced progress but no deal on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, leaving plans for a vote on the bill by the end of the day in jeopardy.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said "no deal" after leaving the meeting with the president.
“We weren’t asking for a deal," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at a news conference after the meeting. “We are very very pleased with the direction this is going.”
Spicer said negotiations were ongoing and Trump would meet later Thursday with the Tuesday Group, a more moderate faction of House Republicans.
The Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday they had enough "no" votes to kill the bill, because members felt it did not go far enough in repealing the mandates established in the Affordable Care Act.
That touched off a flurry of negotiations into the night and continuing Thursday morning over changes that could still be made to win their support.
Among other things, the group is pushing for language that would eliminate "essential health benefits" — 10 services Obamacare plans are required to cover, including prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity care. House leaders had said originally that these provisions could not be added to the bill because it has to remain strictly focused on budget issues to get through the Senate under special procedures that require only 51 votes and do not allow for a Democratic filibuster. On Wednesday evening, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the Senate parliamentarian had told him the insurance provisions would not necessarily violate those budget procedures.
As their leaders scrambled for vote, House Republicans delayed their planned morning meeting. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also postponed his morning press conference until 3:30 p.m.
Republicans are in danger of losing the support of moderates in their caucus. Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., announced Wednesday that they will vote "no" on the bill, joining a growing list of GOP lawmakers who said they are concerned the plan will raise costs for their constituents, particularly seniors.
With Democrats unified in opposition to the bill, the legislation will not pass if more than 22 Republicans vote against it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday that Trump and House GOP leaders were so eager to pass their bill on the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act that they failed to make sure that they had reached agreement within their own party on what the legislation should do.
"Rookie error, Donald Trump, for bringing this up on a day that it is clearly not ready," Pelosi said, chastising the president. "You do not bring up your bill just to be spiteful on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. You build consensus...not the shortest, quickest monstrosity you can bring to the House floor."
She said the vote "is going to be tattooed on their (Republicans') heads" and they will have to take responsibility for the outcome.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Republicans "are rushing to judgement in my view and we don’t know what the bill is going to look like.”
"My view is the president has no idea what’s in this bill," Hoyer said. He added that the changes that GOP leaders are making to appease conservatives will make it harder for them to pass the legislation in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised Thursday that there will be "a robust amendment process" to allow senators to make changes in whatever legislation the House passes. Both moderate and conservative Republican senators have expressed skepticism about the House bill.
"It’s time to move on from seven years of Obamacare’s broken promises and unyielding attacks on the middle class," McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor. "The status quo is not an option. So let’s work together to get this done."
Former president Barack Obama issued a statement Thursday defending his signature law and its achievements. "If Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals — that’s something we all should welcome," he wrote. "But we should start from the baseline that any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans. That should always be our priority. "