White House plans Obamacare showdown next week – Politico
The White House is pushing for another showdown vote on repealing Obamacare next week, to coincide with President Donald Trump’s hitting the 100-day milestone in office.
Legislative text of a new deal that could revive the House Republican bid to repeal Obamacare is likely to be circulated Friday “or by the weekend,” according to two senior White House officials, with an eye toward holding a House floor vote next Wednesday or Thursday.
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But Republican congressional leaders are skeptical the vote can happen so quickly. “The question is whether it can get 216 votes in the House and the answer isn’t clear at this time,” said a senior GOP aide. “There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on.”
Administration officials are feeling inordinate pressure to pass the legislation because of Trump’s impatience and fears that his failure to repeal the health care law will dominate coverage of the administration’s first 100 days, which end next week, officials say.
The White House believes it is “close” to having the 216 votes needed to get a bill out of the House, one senior official said, but “people don’t want to commit without seeing the text.”
Trump has asked repeatedly — and sometimes several times per day — about the status of the health care law and seems more engaged than during last month’s failed effort to get Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act through the chamber, a senior administration official said. The president believes that it will be difficult to gain momentum on other issues without “getting something done on health care,” according to one person who spoke to him.
The flurry of activity just days before Congress returns to Washington aims to reunite the GOP behind Ryan’s embattled bill, offering concessions meant to win over the party’s moderate and conservative wings. It sets up an all-out sprint to make concrete progress on health care amid the specter of a government shutdown.
The deal — brokered by centrist Tuesday Group co-chair Tom MacArthur and hard-right Freedom Caucus head Mark Meadows — proposes giving states more flexibility to opt out of major Obamacare provisions, while at the same time preserving popular protections like the law’s ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
It remains unclear whether the proposal can succeed in shifting any votes —Trump and leaders were forced to abandon a planned vote last month in the face of intraparty rebellion. They’ve since struggled to find a path forward, and even the deal being floated now relies largely on rehashing concepts lawmakers previously rejected.
But Trump has made clear he wants progress fast on health care repeal — a campaign promise that he said would be completed on “Day 1” but that has remained bogged down nearing the 100th day of his presidency, a key milestone. On Wednesday, Speaker Paul Ryan in London said Republicans are putting the “finishing touches” on a health care proposal.
The renewed effort also comes just days before the high-stakes deadline over funding the government or facing the politically risky scenario of shutting it down over one of several contentious issues — including whether Republicans will fund a key Obamacare subsidy program, financing for Trump’s border wall and boosted military spending, among others.
Trump and some administration officials have threatened to cut off Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies — a decision that would wreak havoc on the Obamacare insurance exchanges — to get Democrats to the table on a replacement plan.
Those subsidies, which are at the center of a court battle begun under the Obama administration, help lower-income people pay medical bills and insurance deductibles. Taking them away would prompt insurers to either flee the market or severely hike premiums to cover those costs. Despite calls from the health care industry, business groups and Democrats to continue the payments, the White House has yet to tip its hand.
According to a draft of the tentative deal obtained by POLITICO, the latest proposal would allow states to apply for “limited waivers” that would undermine Obamacare’s protections for pre-existing conditions. Under these waivers, states could opt out of Obamacare standards setting minimum benefits that health plans must offer and a requirement — called community rating — forbidding insurers from charging different prices to people based on health status. Both are provisions that the GOP’s ultraconservatives have pushed to eliminate as part of the repeal effort, contending that these coverage mandates drive up the cost of insurance.
States opting out of the community rating rules would be forced to set up separate insurance pools, known as high-risk pools, where people priced out of the private market could purchase coverage.
At the same time, the deal would allow states the option to maintain insurance protections, supported by centrist Republicans, including community rating.
MacArthur said in a statement Thursday that he has insisted during the discussions that any compromise have protections for pre-existing conditions.
But Democrats and outside progressive groups said the deal would undermine those protections and allow insurers to charge sick people dramatically higher premiums.
“This latest rehash of Trumpcare is nothing more than a desperate effort to deliver a political win for President Trump after his disastrous first 100 days,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
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