In a blow for GOP leadership, a prominent Republican lawmaker who’s worked for years to repeal Obamacare announced Tuesday that he could not support the replacement bill currently under consideration in the House.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is the former chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and he voted in March to advance the initial version of the American Health Care Act through that key committee.
At issue is an amendment to the bill, intended to appease the far-right Freedom Caucus, that could allow states to apply for waivers that would then let insurers charge those with pre-existing conditions much higher rates than they currently pay under Obamacare.
“I’ve supported the practice of not allowing pre-existing illnesses to be discriminated against from the very get-go,” Upton said in a Tuesday morning interview on local Michigan radio station WHTC. “This amendment continues that and I told leadership I cannot support this bill with this provision in it.”
Upton’s office confirmed to TPM that he would not support the bill in its current form.
Protections for pre-existing conditions are at the heart of the tug-of-war between the rank-and-file members and GOP leaders as they try to get the 216 votes needed to pass the bill in the House. Upton said he spoke to Freedom Caucus members Monday who said this was a sticking point for them, and noted that he and other moderates were equally unified in their opposition.
“There are not the votes as of this morning to move this bill forward,” he said, calling the pre-existing conditions provision a “line in the sand.”
Twenty-one Republicans are currently “no” votes and another 22 are “undecided or unclear,” according to the New York Times’ latest whip count. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) can only afford to lose 22 Republican votes, and the defection of big-name lawmakers like Upton makes it easier for rank-and-file members to opposite it, too.