Horse Trading, Promises Win Over Some Holdouts On Health Care Bill

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) enters the Republican Caucus room after speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

As House Republicans struggle to secure the 216 votes needed to pass their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, GOP leaders are making both vague and concrete offers to the remaining holdouts in their conference.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), who previously opposed the American Health Care Act out of fear undocumented immigrants could somehow receive tax credits to purchase health care, said that his vote has been won over by promises from President Trump and GOP leaders that they will advance a separate bill this month that “will require that a person’s Social Security number is verified before we give them a tax credit.”

“I talked to the President at length last night and he agreed 100 percent that he wants it fixed as well,” Barletta told reporters Tuesday. “So my issue is going to be taken care of. I’ve got a letter that puts in writing, from Treasury and Homeland Security.”

Barletta asserted that these assurances will win over more undecided votes than just his, but wouldn’t cite a number of lawmakers or provide any names.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee, confirmed the promised vote on Barletta’s bill, and said it was just one of several they would move forward in order to win over remaining outliers. “We have several improvements to the [Obamacare] replacement that will go separately,” he told reporters. “I intend to include Mr. Barletta’s bill. It’s really an excellent piece of legislation. We haven’t set a date for a markup yet but I anticipate it coming before the end of the month.”

Leaders also secured the vote of Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), until recently a staunch critic of the bill, by promising a vote on his pet issue.

Yet even as leaders float the possibility of a vote this week, lawmakers seemed unsure of whether changes are still being made to the text of the bill itself.

“It’s not final yet,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has not committed to supporting the AHCA but is leaning in that direction. “We certainly haven’t seen the final language. We’re still talking about possible changes. Nothing specific, just people saying we should do this or that.”

“If they don’t have the votes, they have to make changes,” King said. “They want to get it done.”

One of those changes, Brady confirmed, will strip out the exemption for members of Congress that was tucked into the bill last week.

Yet other members who remain on the fence about this bill say they are not getting similar offers of policy tweaks.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who is undecided and leaning towards a no vote, said his call for “expanded tax credits for low-income people and those approaching the age of retirement” has not been heeded by leadership.

“The changes I’m asking for probably won’t be made here,” he said.

Asked how leadership is trying to win his vote, Curbelo said ruefully: “They’re not trying to convince me.”


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