Conservatives Claim They Can Still Sink GOP O’Care Bill As Resistance Weakens

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The conservative holdouts resisting the Republican legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare said Monday that bill has not been changed enough to earn their votes, even as House leadership has reportedly signaled that negotiations over major alterations to the legislation are over.

The line the conservatives drew in the sand comes as a final amendments package, known as a manager’s amendment, is being rolled Monday night by House leaders and the White House designed to win over the moderates and other Republicans by offering small tweaks and giveaways in the legislation.

“I’m confident that we have still enough concerns that a vote of 216 votes in the House would not happen today,” Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told reporters, based on what he’s heard about what were among the latest round of changes. “We’ve been led to believe that there are no more amendments that will be allowed that substantially change things and so if that’s the case, it makes it very difficult if not impossible to get to 216.”

The Freedom Caucus, which met on Monday evening, will not be taking an official position on the bill — a sign, perhaps, that the resistance is weakening. However, caucus member Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) estimated that there will be enough no votes in the Freedom Caucus to sink the GOP legislation, the American Health Care Act.

“There aren’t enough people supporting the bill to pass it,” he told reporters heading into the Freedom Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill Monday night. “I don’t think the whip count was three votes short. I think it was dozens of votes short.”

GOP leaders are aiming for a floor vote on the bill Thursday after it receives a final mark-up in the the Rules Committee Wednesday, where the amendment package will be added. President Trump will be appearing at a Tuesday morning meeting with the entire House GOP caucus, after a Monday night rally in Kentucky where he touted the Republicans’ health care plans.

Yet the hardliners coming out Monday night’s Freedom Caucus meeting were optimistic the White House is still willing to listen to their concerns, and blamed House leadership for getting in the way.

“The White House has been great to work with. The White House is actually open to negotiations. It’s the House leadership that’s not open to negotiations,” said Freedom Caucus member Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) after the meeting. “We don’t believe that they have 216 votes, in fact we know that they don’t have 216 votes. Somebody is telling the White House that the votes are there.”

Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) also attended the meeting, which Meadows pointed to as a sign that the bill also doesn’t have the votes it need in the Senate, where Republicans can only lose two defectors.

Cruz, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said he didn’t think negotiations with the White House were over.

“I believe we can get to yes. But to do so, the most important issue is we must lower premiums. This current draft does not get that done,” Cruz said.

About a dozen of the House members coming out of the meeting say they were still not supportive of the bill in its current reform.

Their ongoing resistance comes as leadership has been able to bring other Republican skeptics of their bill on board through various refinements and gimmes. Aiming for the votes of some in the GOP’s New York delegation, Trump ally Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) is pushing a proposal to tweak the way Medicaid operates in the state to shift pressure from counties to the state to pay for certain aspects of the program, the Hill reported Monday afternoon. To woo moderates who have raised concerns about how the Republican legislation affects older consumers – who under it seeing would likely see their premiums rise and tax credits shrink – leadership is also proposing a $75 billion reserve fund earmarked for tax credits that would be designed to assist those between 50 and 64, according to Politico. It would be up to the Senate to actually design the tax credits under the proposed amendment, Politico said.

The hardline conservatives have raised a whole host of concerns since Republicans embarked on the repealing Obamacare. They would like Medicaid expansion to be phased out sooner. They claimed that the tax credits the GOP plan are offering amount to a new entitlement. Their biggest issue is that the bill doesn’t repeal most of Obamacare’s market reforms, which if dismantled would allow insurers to sell skimpier plans.

“This is a defining moment for our nation, but it is also a defining moment for the Freedom Caucus and so when we look at that, I don’t think there’s a more critical vote for the Freedom Caucus than this particular [bill],” Meadows said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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