Trump OKs GOP health bill changes

Pres­i­dent strives to win more votes but pas­sage un­cer­tain.

Austin American-Statesman - - NEWS - By Alan Fram and Erica Werner

Pres­i­dent WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump agreed to add fresh Med­i­caid curbs to the House Repub­li­can health care bill Fri­day, bol­ster­ing the mea­sure with sup­port from some con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers but leav­ing its prospects wob­bly.

House lead­ers dis­cussed other amend­ments cal­i­brated to round up votes and sched­uled a showdown vote Thurs­day.

“I just want to let the world know I am 100 per­cent in fa­vor” of the mea­sure, Trump said at the White House after meet­ing around a dozen House law­mak­ers and shak­ing hands on re­vi­sions. “We’re go­ing to have a health care plan that’s go­ing to be sec­ond to none.”

While the rapid-fire events seemed to build mo­men­tum for the piv­otal GOP leg­is­la­tion, its fate re­mained clouded. One lead­ing House con­ser­va­tive said the al­ter­ations were in­suf­fi­cient and claimed to have enough al­lies to sink the mea­sure. Sup­port among mod­er­ates also re­mained un­cer­tain.

“My whip count in­di­cates that there are 40 no’s,” enough to de­feat the bill, said Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., who leads the hard­line House Free­dom Cau­cus. He said the changes in the bill don’t move the ball more than a cou­ple yards on a very long play­ing field.”

Across the Capi­tol, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., fac­ing re-elec­tion next year, be­came the fourth Repub­li­can sen­a­tor to an­nounce his op­po­si­tion. That left Se­nate GOP lead­ers at least two votes shy of what they would need to pre­vail.

Con­gres­sional Democrats re­main solidly op­posed to the GOP ef­fort.

Thurs­day will mark the sev­enth an­niver­sary of when then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed his health over­haul into law, a mile­stone of his pres­i­dency en­acted over unan­i­mous GOP op­po­si­tion. Be­yond that sym­bol­ism, Repub­li­can lead­ers hope to al­low time for Congress to com­plete the mea­sure be­fore an early April re­cess ex­poses law­mak­ers to the pos­si­bil­ity of two weeks of lob­by­ing and town hall pres­sure tac­tics by ac­tivists, doc­tors, hos­pi­tals and other op­po­nents.

The Repub­li­can bill would kill much of Obama’s law, in­clud­ing its tax penal­ties for peo­ple who don’t buy in­sur­ance and its ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid, the fed­eral-state health pro­gram for the poor, to cover some adults who are above the fed­eral poverty line. It would re­place the cur­rent fed­eral sub­si­dies for many in­sur­ance buy­ers with less-gen­er­ous tax sub­si­dies and and re­peal levies on the wealthy and med­i­cal firms that helped fi­nance Obama’s ex­pan­sion of cov­er­age to 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans.

It seemed clear that GOP lead­ers re­mained short of the 216 votes they will need, and ad­di­tional changes were in the works.

Rep. Tom McClin­tock, R-Calif., said he had been as­sured by House Speaker Paul Ryan that the bill’s tax credit would be ad­justed to fo­cus more ben­e­fits on lower-in­come peo­ple. Rep. Robert Ader­holt, R-Ala., among those who met with Trump, said the pres­i­dent “told his peo­ple” to work on changes mak­ing the mea­sure more gen­er­ous for lower-earn­ing and older Amer­i­cans.

“Every­thing has to be a change that would in­crease the vote count,” Scalise said.

Con­ser­va­tives seemed un­likely to achieve their de­mands that the GOP bill’s phase-out of Obama’s Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion — now in 2020 — be ac­cel­er­ated to next year and that the credit be de­nied to peo­ple whose in­comes are so low that they have lit­tle or no tax li­a­bil­ity. Cen­trists re­mained wary of yank­ing con­stituents from cov­er­age. Many rep­re­sent states where vot­ers have gained Med­i­caid and other in­sur­ance un­der the 2010 statute.

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