GOP mulls vote on healthcare bill as early as Saturday
House Republican leaders are considering holding a quick vote on their embattled healthcare bill after a group of conservative holdouts endorsed a revised version.
Facing White House pressure to pass the bill, the Republican vote-counting team is trying to gauge support for a vote Saturday, according to a Republican aide familiar with the process. But it’s unclear whether the changes will gain support from moderate holdouts, or even cause some defections among those who supported the earlier version.
The health bill and a pair of amendments were posted late Wednesday on a House website listing bills that may be considered by the full chamber this week, the strongest signal yet that GOP leaders believe they may have the votes to send the measure to the Senate.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told CNBC on Thursday that a House vote on the measure could happen next week or earlier. “I’m still holding out for Saturday,” he said.
Saturday would mark President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, although that milestone is more important to the White House than to House leadership, the aide said. Last month’s push to repeal Obamacare on the seventh anniversary of that bill becoming law was scrapped when it became clear that Republicans lacked the votes for their own plan.
The bill got a new lease on life Wednesday when the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which helped derail the measure last month, formally endorsed the latest draft.
“While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs,” the group said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill.”
Other undecided Republicans "are so close to (supporting it) that I’m very optimistic whether the vote is tomorrow or Saturday or next week, the votes will be there to actually pass this," Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said Thursday on Bloomberg TV.
Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a leading Republican centrist, said he believes most moderates remain opposed. He called the new version an effort at “blame-shifting” for the failure of the repeal effort.
House Republicans have been under intense pressure to deliver on years of promises to repeal Obamacare, but GOP leaders weren’t making predictions of an imminent vote despite the pressure from the White House.
The new enthusiasm stems from an amendment that would give states the authority to apply for waivers from some of Obamacare’s requirements under certain conditions.
"It’s pretty much everything I was looking for in terms of concessions,” said Representative Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, a member of the Freedom Caucus who had opposed an earlier version.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday the amendment provides “a great way to lower premiums, give states more flexibility while protecting people with pre-existing conditions.” When asked whether the House will vote next week on the healthcare bill, he said, “We’ll see. We’ll vote on it when we get the votes.”
Changes to the bill may also make it more difficult to pass the Senate. “It will be harder for the Senate to get 51 Republicans,” Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a former House majority leader and longtime whip, said Wednesday.
The White House, which has been involved in discussions about the changes, is still eager to resurrect the healthcare bill.
“We’re not going to overpromise anything; when the votes are there, the speaker will bring it to the floor but no sooner than that,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told reporters late Tuesday. He said he didn’t know if that might be this week or next.
An amendment would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions in states that get a waiver. To obtain the waiver, states would have to provide sick people priced out of commercial insurance with access to a so-called high-risk pool run by the federal government, or establish their own, and satisfy other conditions.