Trump OKs changes in GOP health care bill, winning support

Mar 18, 2017, 00:58

Short of votes for their health care bill, Republican congressional leaders turned to President Donald Trump Thursday to wrangle support for the divisive legislation they hope to push through Congress before Easter.

The president and House GOP leaders are trying to shepherd the American Health Care Act (AHCA) through the lower chamber amid fierce party infighting over its contents.

Republican Reps. Mark Sanford, Dave Brat and Gary Palmer, who are members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, joined Democratic committee members in voting against the measure.

House Republicans scheduled a vote for Thursday on the health care replacement bill, as President Trump said he's convinced over a dozen members of the Republican Study Committee to support the plan.

President Trump said Friday that he successfully wooed 13 members of the RSC at a White House meeting on the proposal's support. With the 193 House Democrats expected to vote as a bloc against repealing Obamacare, Ryan can't lose more than 21 Republican votes.

Ryan backed away Wednesday from his previous rhetoric of calling the measure's fate a "binary choice" for Republican lawmakers.

As of Wednesday night, CNN's own whip count recorded 19 Republican House members against or leaning against the bill as it was written, a rude awakening that Ryan can't ignore. "The goal here is get to a bill that ... we can pass and that is actually great policy, and the president playing a very constructive role on this".

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The conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks held a rally amid snow flurries and a frigid wind outside the Capitol where several House and Senate Republicans including Cruz and Senator Rand Paul voiced dissatisfaction with the bill.

Health secretary Tom Price was using phone calls to lobby Republican governors, some of whom oppose the bill's phasing out of Obama's expansion of Medicaid to 11 million lower-income Americans.

A key factor in the growing opposition to the bill was its provision to end Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement program offering matching federal funds to the states.

Republicans have been scrambling to salvage their bill after Congress' analysts said some 24 million would be shoved off insurance in the next decade under the GOP bill. They've also discussed changing the new tax credits.

At this point it's clear the bill will need to be changed, but pressed on what kind of changes the leadership is prepared to make, a senior House GOP leadership aide said they are limited to those that would "net votes" - meaning that they are carefully evaluating those amendments conservatives and moderates are pressing and are only planning to sign off on those that up the ultimate vote total.

Representative Charlie Dent, following a meeting of moderate Republicans with Pence, told reporters that speeding up the termination of the Medicaid expansion was a "non-starter". 'Obamacare is dead. And unless we gave it massive subsidies in a year from now or six months from now, it's not even going to be here. Gone was the federal government's oppressive mandate requiring all Americans who do not have health coverage to pay a stiff penalty. It would cut Medicaid, repeal the law's tax increases on higher earning Americans and require 30% higher premiums for consumers who let coverage lapse.

This could have been in response to a recent CBO report that came out last week, which found 52 million people would be uninsured by 2026 if the GOP bill became law. Experts said the figures undercut Republican claims that the health law's insurance markets are teetering toward collapse.