- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

House Republicans are trying to rally support for their new Obamacare repeal and won’t rush a vote this time, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Democrats, enraged over the return of the health care fight, are threatening to try to block a spending bill to keep the government open into next week, saying they don’t want to see Congress rush a slew of bills through just to beat an artificial Saturday deadline marking the 100th day since President Trump took office.

Mr. Ryan said nothing has been scheduled on health care, though he said Republicans are making “very good progress” in winning over new supporters.

“We’re gonna go when we have the votes,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said.

Hard-line conservatives who balked at the first repeal attempt signed onto the bill en masse Wednesday, after leaders embraced changes negotiated by the House Freedom Caucus and Rep. Thomas MacArthur, a centrist from New Jersey, designed to cut costs for healthier Americans.

That left holdouts in the centrist Tuesday Group as the main target of lobbying Thursday, even if few seemed to be gravitating toward the bill.

At least one — Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado — shifted in the opposite direction, from a “yes” vote to someone who is still mulling his stance.

Still, members of the Freedom Caucus said their support should put the House GOP within striking distance of the 216 votes needed for passage.

“I can’t say how many Tuesday Group people have switched from ‘yes’ to ‘no,’ but based on previous whip counts, I would think that we would be very close,” Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, said.

The White House is pushing for a vote as soon as possible, though Democratic leaders said GOP moderates who acquiesce to the pressure will face blowback at home after the Congressional Budget Office estimated the underlying GOP bill would result in 24 million fewer people holding insurance a decade from now.

“You’ll pay a huge price in the 2018 election if you vote for it,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said.

The CBO won’t have a score of the revised bill this week or next, meaning that if Republicans schedule a vote before then, they’ll do it blind to the changes their bill would mean.

The MacArthur amendment would let states opt out of parts of Obamacare requiring insurers to cover “essential” benefits such as maternity and mental health care or prescription drugs.

States can also waive rules requiring insurers to charge healthy consumers the same amount as sicker consumers, so long as states set up risk pools to subsidize those priced out of the market, since insurers still cannot deny people with preexisting medical conditions.

Doctors’ groups, labor unions and influential lobbies that opposed the GOP’s initial plan, dubbed the American Health Care Act, sharpened their attacks after reviewing the text.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Associated, said the recent changes “would dramatically worsen the bill.”

“We are deeply concerned that the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing their current health insurance coverage,” American Medical Association CEO James L. Madara wrote to House leaders. “Nothing in the MacArthur amendment remedies the shortcomings of the underlying bill.”

Yet Mr. Ryan said the biggest mistake his members could make at this point is retreating from their repeal vow.

“We promised that we would do this. If you violate your promise, if you commit the sin of hypocrisy in politics, that’s the greater risk, I think, to a person’s seat,” Mr. Ryan said.

Rep. Chris Collins, New York Republican and a key Trump ally, said he’s tried to persuade his Northeast colleagues into the “yes” column by noting their states probably won’t apply for waivers or enforce their own stringent requirements on insurers.

Campaign opponents will find something to attack them on in 2018, he said, but probably not this.

“That’s going to be a waste of their money,” he said. “I’m just trying to soothe the waters, to remind people that are afraid of their next election.”

Sally Persons contributed to this report.


• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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