President Trump is serious about passing the American Health Care Act, or AHCA, this week. After the bill was postponed on Thursday due to the lack of conservative support, Trump turned to GOP members of the House and gave them a stern warning.
Trump told House Republican lawmakers that he will leave ObamaCare in place and move on to tax reform if they do not get behind the new healthcare legislation and give it support in a vote on Friday. This is an effort to push the bill through so that the administration can move on to other things on the agenda.
Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), who heads the group of conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus, has been very critical about the bill. However, he says he remains optimistic that it will pass on Friday.
Not only is Trump upset that the bill is taking so long to pass, but he is also frustrated that his staff has been unable to clear the way to passage. Not only that, he feels misled by those aides who advised him to sign onto the GOP leadership’s repeal bill, according to a source close to the President. Trump realizes his credibility may take a hit if the bill goes down.
After the president’s terse words on Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a statement, “We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law, and tomorrow we’re proceeding.”
The warning from President Trump to just leave ObamaCare in its place should the bill fail isn’t the first time he’s gone after Republican lawmakers. In fact, it’s not even the first time he’s done it this week. On Tuesday, Trump told GOP members who refused to endorse and vote for the AHCA bill that their careers would suffer if they didn’t join the rest of the party.
A series of meetings and conference calls were held at Capitol Hill and the White House at the beginning of the week. President Tump, Vice President Pence and top Republican leaders were working to rally up more support for the bill from their own party. They expressed the importance of repealing ObamaCare and uniting the GOP for this promise they’ve made to the American people.
In a private meeting, however, the President was a little less enthusiastic. Knowing the Freedom Caucus is behind most of the holdout from the party, Trump turned to Sen. Meadows. “I’m going to come after you,” said Trump to Meadows, according to people who were in the room. He then told the rest of them, reassuringly, “I believe Mark and his group will come along, because honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”
As of Tuesday, two days before the bill was originally scheduled to be voted on, Republicans still did not have the majority they needed to pass it. As many as three dozen Republicans remained opposed or unpersuaded, according to an aide on Capitol Hill. As Trump and other leaders worked to gather support, .
They were pressuring lawmakers to oppose it, raising questions about whether it would be possible to mount a successful primary challenge to defectors. Some Republicans even noted that the political damage would be greater if they supported the health care bill, which they said failed to achieve their goals or those of their constituents.
“I think if we do do this, we lose the majority,” said Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), a member of the Freedom Caucus who said he still remains opposed to the bill.
Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), whose district was one of the few that Trump lost in the 2016 election, says that he is also leaning toward a “no” vote. “I campaigned in support of a repeal-and-replace bill that would make healthcare more affordable and accessible and provide a smooth transition to those who were forced into Obamacare through no fault of their own,” Lance said. “The bill, as currently drafted, does none of these things.”
The president has quite a few Republicans who remain opposed to the bill that he endorsed as part of his pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare. However, he also has a large group of supporters who are using every opportunity to back him up.
Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) said in a statement, “He made it very clear he’s all in on this legislation. This is a historic moment and a historic promise for Republicans to deliver on.”
Just before the official announcement that the vote on the AHCA bill would be postponed on Thursday, the new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, which focused on the latest revisions to the bill, was released. Per the report, the changes made will actually only decrease federal deficits by $150 billion over 10 years, while the original measure would have lowered deficits by $337 billion.
According to an ongoing whip count, between 27 and 30 House Republicans have said they will vote against the bill and four more have indicated they are likely to oppose it. Republicans can’t lose more than 21 members of their caucus and still pass the bill, since no Democrats are expected to support it.
Members of the House are also getting restless due to all of the back-and-forth on the bill. “I think the window for making decisions is rapidly closing. We need a vote or go home,” said Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL), a member of the Republican Study Committee.
As the vote looms near, President Trump’s words should resonate with GOP leaders. They have made a promise to the citizens who put them in their positions to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and that’s what they need to do. If not, it looks as though there will be consequences.