March 23 (UPI) — Fractured support among House Republicans on Thursday delayed a vote on the American Health Care Act to give proponents more time to recruit enough votes to get the insurance package passed.
Lawmakers postponed the full House vote, which was set for Thursday. It wasn’t initially clear when the delayed vote will occur.
GOP leaders decided to postpone the vote after multiple meetings aimed at brokering a compromise with uncertain Republicans failed to produce a resolution.
More than 30 GOP lawmakers from the lower chamber met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday to hear the commander in-chief’s pitch to get on board with the legislation Republicans have proposed to replace the Affordable Care Act.
After their meeting, some of those in attendance said no new headway was made.
“Nothing new was agreed upon,” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said, adding that the group of unpledged lawmakers would return to the Capitol and consider their options.
“Members of the House Freedom Caucus thanked the president for engaging with them throughout the negotiations. The president thanked the group for their willingness to work closely with the White House and their colleagues in Congress to craft the strongest possible bill,” the White House said in a statement Thursday.
“The group agreed that their ultimate goal is to implement a system that will drive down costs and increase access to healthcare for millions of Americans. This meeting was a positive step toward that goal.”
The AHCA has been controversial since its unveiling by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., earlier this month. Democrats have dismissed the plan for a number of reasons; conservatives have panned the package because they say it doesn’t go far enough in repealing former President Barack Obama‘s law, often called “Obamacare.”
“I commend Freedom Caucus for staying united against Obamacare Lite. Enough NO votes to stop bill and restart negotiations with conservatives,” Paul said in a statement Wednesday.
In order to be approved and sent to the Senate, the AHCA needs 218 of the 237 Republican votes in the House. As of mid-Thursday, whip counts continued to indicate the GOP could be well shy of that threshold — as about 60 GOP lawmakers were still uncertain whether they will support the plan.
In other words, House Republicans can only afford to lose 21 votes. A bloc of conservatives in the chamber, the still unconvinced Freedom Caucus, could easily surpass that threshold by themselves.
Ryan has previously “guaranteed” that the bill will pass the lower chamber.
If the bill advances to the Senate, where its fate is even less certain, 51 of the GOP’s 52 lawmakers would need to back it.
The most outspoken House Democrat against the bill has been Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who again took aim at the plan Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the ACA’s passage — and saying cracks of inexperience in Trump’s administration continue to show.
“Rookie’s error, Donald Trump. You may be a great negotiator; rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day you clearly are not ready,” she said.
“TrumpCare is not a healthcare bill. It’s a tax bill to give the richest billions in tax giveaways,” she tweeted.
The chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said his main objection is that the GOP bill does not lower premiums for most Americans.
Members of the Freedom Caucus have been courted heavily by Trump, who visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to persuade the House to pass the AHCA. Trump warned House Republicans they could lose control of Congress if they didn’t approve the bill.
Democrats criticized the bill after the Congressional Budget Office said the AHCA would result in 24 million more uninsured Americans over the next decade.
The AHCA shares similarities with Obamacare, including requiring companies to provide insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions and providing subsidies for people to purchase insurance on the individual market in the form of tax credits. Young adults would also be allowed to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
But unlike Obamacare, the AHCA would spend less on subsidies and reduce Medicaid spending — using those savings to eliminate taxes imposed by Obamacare on wealthier Americans and medical companies. The CBO said the AHCA would reduce the deficit by $337 billion.
In an effort to win over conservative Republicans, the leadership announced several amendments on Monday night.
They agreed to allow states to require Medicaid recipients to show proof of work and let the states choose a Medicaid block grant over the cap system. Also, the Obamacare taxes for those who don’t get insurance would phase out this year instead of 2018.
To please moderates, Medicaid allotments for older and disabled beneficiaries would increase faster than inflation. Also, the bill will allow the Senate to craft more generous tax credits for people age 50-64.