GOP Leaders Reassure Moderates on Obamacare Repeal Bill

congress-health-repeal-J. Scott ApplewhiteAP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

GOP leaders are struggling to reassure moderate Republicans on the Obamacare repeal bill as they attempt to pass the bill this week.

Senior White House and Capitol Hill staff said they will draft a new amendment to address key moderate concerns about protecting patients with pre-existing conditions. Late Tuesday, multiple sources said House leadership floated the idea of adding additional money to high-risk pools aimed at subsidizing high-risk health care plans.

Former Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), who crafted several Obamacare repeal bills, previously came out against the bill for failing to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. Trump ally Congressman Billy Long (R-MO) announced he would also oppose the bill. Now, after opposing the bill, Upton and Long support the measures.

Long told the President, “I said, ‘I’m a no’ and I stayed a no. I said, ‘Fred Upton and I have been working on some language, if we can get [it] in there it can get us both in a position we need to be on preexisting conditions and make sure those people are covered. Because they need to be covered. Period.’”

House leadership can only afford to lose 22 votes. Roughly 20 lawmakers currently oppose the bill. Several other Republicans remain undecided.

President Trump called about a dozen lawmakers Tuesday seeking support for the bill. Capitol Hill and White House officials will host lawmakers, including Upton and Long, at the White House on Wednesday to reassure worried moderates about the bill.

White House officials want a vote on Thursday, although Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will decide when to bring the vote to the floor. Two senior White House officials fear that members leaving for recess this Thursday without voting on the health care bill could doom its eventual passage. However, many lawmakers grow increasingly frustrated with the White House’s aggressive timetable.

Legislators could change the Obamacare repeal bill, but two senior officials said that the changes “can’t be that significant, or we will lose the support from the Freedom Caucus.” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows and Tuesday Group co-chairman Tom MacArthur brokered the current deal between conservative and moderate Republicans, and changing the bill at the last moment could undermine conservative support for the bill and the bill itself could sink.

Congressman Upton said Tuesday that more money for high-risk pools would not necessarily flip his vote. Upton announced Wednesday that he would support the bill, after it was agreed that they would add an amendment to the bill creating an $8 billion fund to help cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Freedom Caucus member Joe Barton (R-TX) said that potential changes to the bill will be superficial. He said, “We’re tweaking, floating verbiage and stuff. We’re not changing the bill in a major way. There is some discussion to get everybody together. Sometime this summer we’ll put a bill on the president’s desk.”


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