Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

White House pushes bid to revive health care bill,

- By Alan Fram and Julie Pace

WASHINGTON — Eager for a victory, the White House expressed confidence Thursday that a breakthrou­gh on the mired Republican health care bill could be achieved in the House next week. The chamber’s GOP leaders, burned by a March debacle on the measure, were dubious and signs were scant that an emerging plan was gaining enough votes to succeed.

During a White House news conference, President Donald Trump said progress was being made on a “great plan” for overhaulin­g the nation’s health care system, though he provided no details. “We have a good chance of getting it soon,” Mr. Trump said. “I’d like to say next week.”

The White House optimism is driven largely by a deal brokered by leaders of the conservati­ve Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group aimed at giving states more flexibilit­y to pull out of “Obamacare” provisions. A senior White House official acknowledg­ed that it was unclear how many votes Republican­s had, but said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has told the White House that a vote could come together quickly.

Yet GOP lawmakers and aides to party leaders, conservati­ves and moderates alike were skeptical that the House would vote next week on the health legislatio­n after returning Monday from a twoweek recess. They cited the higher priority of passing a spending bill within days to avert a government shutdown by midnight next Friday, uncertaint­y over details of the developing health agreement and a need to sell it to lawmakers.

Many Republican­s expressed doubts that the health care compromise would win over enough lawmakers to put the bill over the top, especially among moderates. The bill would repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law and replace it with less generous subsidies and eased insurance requiremen­ts.

An outline of a deal has been crafted by Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who heads the hard-line Freedom Caucus, and New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, a Tuesday Group leader. Vice President Mike Pence played a role in shaping that plan, Republican­s say. It would deliver a win to moderates by amending the GOP bill to restore Mr. Obama’s requiremen­t that insurers cover specified services like maternity care. But in a bid for conservati­ve support, states would be allowed to obtain federal waivers to abandon that obligation.

In addition, states could obtain waivers to an Obama prohibitio­n against insurers charging sick customers higher premiums than consumers who are healthy — a change critics argue would make insurance unaffordab­le for many. To get those waivers, states would need to have high-risk pools — government-backed insurance for the most seriously ill people, a mechanism that has often failed for lack of sufficient financing.

The White House is seen as anxious to pass legislatio­n quickly, partly because many expect Mr. Trump to hit his 100th day in office on April 29 without a having signed a major piece of legislatio­n.

With Democrats solidly opposed, Republican­s can lose no more than 21 House votes to prevail, and Mr. Ryan short-circuited a planned vote last month because more than that would have defected.

Pick for rules czar

Neomi Rao, a littleknow­n law professor at George Mason University, could soon become one of the most powerful officials in Washington. Mr. Trump has nominated the conservati­ve lawyer to run the obscure but powerful Office of Informatio­n and Regulatory Affairs, a gateway through which federal regulation­s must pass.

Ms. Rao has written that the independen­ce of federal agencies should be abolished, their rules subject to White House review, and the heads of those agencies subject to dismissal by the president.

‘Island in the Pacific’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was seen as speaking dismissive­ly about the state of Hawaii when he called it “an island in the Pacific” while criticizin­g a Federal District Court ruling last month that blocked the Trump administra­tion from carrying out its ban on travel from parts of the Muslim world.

Cybersecur­ity review

Mr. Trump vowed he would have a team present him with a review of the nation's cybersecur­ity efforts within 90 days of taking office.

But Thursday was the 90day mark, and no plan has been presented.

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