The Republican House leaders pushing the passage of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal and replacement legislation shot down Friday the idea that they’d be open to negotiating how the bill handles Medicaid expansion. Conservatives are lobbying to speed up the process by which Republicans aim to phase out the program, by requesting that its enrollment be frozen in 2018 instead of 2020, as it is under the current plan.
“I think right now, that would be very difficult to do,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said at press conference, when asked it leadership was open to the idea.
If leaders’ concede to the conservatives’ demand to move up the Medicaid expansion phase out date, they risk losing the support of more centrist Republicans, and particularly those hailing from expansion states, which are represented by 20 Republicans in the Senate.
“As we repeal Obamacare, we want to make sure that we don’t create gaps,” Energy and Commerce Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) said at the same press conference.
“I’ve had discussions all along about different dates, different timelines, with governors, with insurance commissioners, with leaders of these different groups,” he added, while pointing to the fact that the current plan passed out of his committee Thursday with unanimous support of the panel’s Republicans.
Conservatives have sought to get around leadership by appealing directly to President Trump. According to a CNN report Thursday evening, the White House is has shifted its stance on the Medicaid expansion issue in favor of what the hardliners are asking for.
At Friday’s press conference, the Republican House leaders denied that they were being cut out of the loop, and also said they had no problem with the conservative members airing their concerns with the White House.
“President Trump wants this bill to pass. Why shouldn’t the President communicate and listen to members?” McCarthy said.