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Donald Trump presses GOP House members on health care bill

President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services

President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price walk to a closed House Republican Party conference on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, where Trump was urging them to support his American Health Care Act. Credit: Getty Images / Mark Wilson

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump warned Republicans in Congress Tuesday that they would face negative political consequences if they fail to pass a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, both for future legislation and at the polls in 2018.

In a trip to the Capitol, Trump sought to shore up support among party members uneasy about the American Health Care Act, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has put on a fast track to begin to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“The president of the United States came to us and said, ‘We all made a promise to the American people, and we need to keep our promises,’ ” Ryan said after the closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol.

“He laid it on the lines for everybody,” Ryan said of the different factions in his Republican caucus. “We keep our promise and the people will reward us. If we don’t keep our promise, it will be very hard to manage this.”

Ryan has scheduled a House vote on the legislation for Thursday, but it is not clear he has the votes he needs for passage. If Ryan does hold a vote, it could occur after a long day of deal-making and revisions to corral more support, as well as the Democrats’ opposition and delay tactics.

According to most counts, Ryan can lose the votes of just 21 of the 237 House Republicans and still pass the bill. All Democrats are expected to vote against the measure.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chair of the conservative Freedom Caucus, claimed he had enough votes among his members to block the bill — even after meeting with Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday afternoon.

And there are at least five moderate Republicans who also plan to vote against the legislation.

As the prospect of passage remained up in the air, White House spokesman Sean Spicer added pressure by hinting that Trump might campaign in the 2018 elections against Republicans voting no.

“Let’s get through the vote,” Spicer said when asked at the daily White House briefing. But he added Trump would “remember those who stood by us.”

The bill scraps much of the current health law, often called Obamacare, reducing the deficit by $337 billion over a decade, but also increasing the number of uninsured people to 24 million, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

But those figures will change with the revisions to the legislation made as Trump and Ryan have negotiated with different GOP factions, most notably the conservative bloc known as the Freedom Caucus, which claims 40 members.

During Tuesday’s meeting with House Republicans, Trump called out both Meadows and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and urged them to get on board.

King said he is undecided because he worries how the Republican bill will affect the 800,000 low-income and disabled people in New York who signed up for expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. He said he also is assessing other changes.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is included on most lists as a yes vote on the bill, and has spoken about it in positive terms. Zeldin’s press aide did not respond to queries on his vote.

Democrats, who paid a high price for passing Obama’s health care law in 2010 by losing the majority in the House and Senate, said they oppose the Ryan bill and warned it might not pass.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens), chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said Ryan is struggling to get the votes he needs. “Even the president was forced to come to the Hill this morning to literally beg Republican members of the House of Representatives to vote for what was supposed to be a signature policy achievement,” Crowley said.

If the House passes the bill Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he might take it up on the Senate floor before Congress’ spring recess begins during the week of April 10.

At least six Republican senators have expressed concerns about the legislation, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who said he cannot support the bill in its present form.

With Emily Ngo


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