- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2017

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Thursday he will encourage Democrats to oppose a funding bill designed to buy time for 2017 spending talks if Republicans hurtle forward with a vote on their health care bill before the 100th day of President Trump’s term.

Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said the GOP should either pump the brakes on its push to repeal and replace Obamacare or “be prepared to pass a one-week continuing Resolution on their own,” increasing the changes of a government shutdown when current funding expires at midnight Friday.

“If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful Trumpcare bill to the House floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well,” Mr. Hoyer said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said his team hasn’t scheduled a vote on health care yet.

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

But he said he’d be “shocked” if Democrats “wanted to see a government shutdown” by tying the health care issue to stopgap funding.

The spending bill proposed by House Republicans late Wednesday would extend funding through May 5, averting a partial shutdown that would ensue without any more money in the pipeline.

Negotiations on the full 2017 bill hit snags earlier this week when Democrats insisted on including controversial Obamacare money and President Trump insisted on initial funding for his border wall. Mr. Trump eventually dropped his wall demands, and Democrats on Wednesday relented on their Obamacare demand after the administration made clear it wouldn’t unilaterally halt payments.

The new bill would buy seven days to finalize a full 2017 deal.

Now, Democrats are using the spending process as leverage against the GOP’s Obamacare repeal plan, which gathered critical votes on Wednesday from hard-line conservatives who helped sink the GOP’s first Obamacare repeal attempt.

The House Freedom Caucus reversed course and officially endorsed the latest plan designed to slash costs for healthy Americans, giving Republican leaders a critical boost and heaping pressure on centrists to back the plan.

Their endorsement is the direct result of a proposal brokered by Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Rep. Tom MacArthur, a centrist from New Jersey. It would allow 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 pre-existing medical conditions.

“People will be better off with pre-existing conditions under our plan,” Mr. Ryan said.

Many centrists are still cool to the plan, Democrats fear that Republicans will find the votes to launch a quick strike against Obamacare before Mr. Trump rallies with supporters in Pennsylvania late Saturday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she is worried that Republicans on the Rules Committee will prepare debate guidelines that set up votes on both the one-week funding bill and Obamacare repeal before the weekend.

“They’re mixing apples and oranges here and they are making matters worse,” she said.

Democrats say Republicans made a bad health bill worse with the MacArthur amendment, after the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the initial version would result in 24 million fewer people holding insurance a decade from now.

Mrs. Pelosi said any Republicans who pass the health care bill will have “doo-doo on their shoe” for perpetuity.

“At some point, they’re going to have to explain it to their children,” she said.

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