Trump OKs GOP health bill changes
President strives to win more votes but passage uncertain.
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.