- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2017

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden will rally with House Democrats in defense of Obamacare on Wednesday, just one day before the seventh anniversary of its passage and a planned vote to gut the law.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Biden will join Democrats for the press event on the Capitol steps in a high-profile push to protect the Affordable Care Act and its coverage gains, even as President Trump and Republican leaders try to push the first phase of their replacement plan across the finish line.

“Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans have gained access to quality, affordable health care, and more than 155 million additional Americans who receive health insurance through their employers have benefitted from the law’s historic protections,” Mrs. Pelosi’s office said in announcing Mr. Biden’s return to Washington.

Mr. Trump is meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the White House early Monday, as they make a three-day push to gather the 216 GOP votes they need to send their health care bill to the Senate.

Ezekiel Emanuel, a former adviser to President Obama who’s been called the “architect” of Obamacare, was scheduled to join them, adding a bit of intrigue to the meeting.

The House Rules Committee announced it will meet early Wednesday to vet final changes to the bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act, and set down the terms of floor debate.

Mr. Ryan on Sunday said the administration is considering tweaks that would provide more assistance to older Americans whose costs would soar under the plan as written.

Mr. Trump already reeled in a dozen key conservatives by agreeing Friday to amendments that would make changes to Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

The changes would allow states to impose work requirements on able-bodied people in the program, and let governors accept a block grant of federal funding for the program instead of a per-capita allotment.

Pivotal members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, however, have expressed deeper concerns and say they’re prepared to vote against the bill unless they see major changes that will drive down premiums.

“While I’ve been in Congress, I can’t recall a more universally detested piece of legislation than this GOP health care bill,” Rep. Justin Amash, Michigan Republican, said on Twitter.

Republicans leaders cannot forfeit more than 21 GOP votes, because every Democrat is expected to reject the bill.

At least three centrists have said they cannot support the bill in its current form.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania Republican, said on Facebook over the weekend that it doesn’t do enough to address the opioid epidemic.

“I am continuing my discussions with House leadership, urging them to address our concerns and to develop solutions based upon transparency and free-market principles to drive down health care costs and expand access to all,” he said in his post.

Two other centrists — Rep. Iliana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey — previously had said they couldn’t support the bill without significant changes.

Meanwhile, America’s Catholic bishops lauded pro-life provisions in the GOP bill but said its proposed overhaul of Medicaid and use of age-based tax credits would put coverage out of reach for the most vulnerable.

“Proposed modifications to the Medicaid program, a vital component of the social safety net, will have sweeping impacts, increasing economic and community costs while moving away from affordable access for all,” Rev. Frank J. Dewane, committee chairman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to House members.

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