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Obamacare repeal in jeopardy as Trump offers 11th-hour concessions

The Republican push to replace Obamacare – backed forcefully by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan —is in jeopardy, as a last-ditch bid by the White House to win conservative support late Wednesday appeared to repel moderates.

Moderate Republicans huddled with Speaker Paul Ryan and House leaders for nearly two hours Wednesday night but emerged without consensus. Immediately after exiting the meeting, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), leader of the House’s moderate Tuesday Group, panned the bill, known as the American Health Care Act.

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“After careful deliberation, I cannot support the bill and will oppose it,” Dent said in a statement upon leaving the meeting. “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals.”

The growing rebellion of moderate members comes as House leaders spent the day attempting to placate their hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, a group of three-dozen arch-conservatives that had been threatening to tank the bill. To bring them on board, House leaders — at the behest of the White House — offered to gut minimum health insurance requirements imposed by Obamacare.

Though the move represented a win for conservatives, many Freedom Caucus members refused to commit their support for the bill. They want to cut even more Obamacare regulations, including its popular provision requiring insurers to offer coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

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“No decisions reached. Continuing to negotiate. The Freedom Caucus continues to have serious concerns with current AHCA text,” Freedom Caucus aide Alyssa Farah tweeted late Thursday night.

That posture left moderates furious about the lack of committed support, and some indicated the move had caused them to reconsider the bill.

“Obviously the Freedom Caucus has presented what it will take for them to get some yeses and I think there are now members who will have to now evaluate things a little bit further,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) after exiting the meeting in Ryan’s office.

In the marathon session, Ryan laid out the changes to the bill that the White House negotiated with the House Freedom Caucus. A source in the room said many attendees found the concessions to the right-wing caucus hard to swallow, especially because leadership told them Freedom Caucus members hadn’t yet promised to support the measure — even if they won the changes.

Moderates said they need to learn more about what the White House proposal would mean for their constituents and providers they represent. Many expressed worry that the leadership would force swing-district members to take a risky vote when the Senate would likely strip out the provision anyway because it may run afoul of the Senate’s arcane rules.

And some moderates were especially aghast that leadership couldn’t tell them how many votes this proposal would win them from the House Freedom Caucus.

“Everybody’s frustrated,” said one lawmaker in the meeting. “Some moved; some stayed the same.”

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When asked if by “moved” he meant away from the bill, the source added: “Nobody goes closer to the bill on that one.”

Among the attendees: Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Chief Deputy Majority Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) were all there.

Centrist and Tuesday Group attendees included Will Hurd (R-Texas), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), among others.

Trump and Ryan allies spent all day Wednesday attempting to build a fragile coalition in support of their proposal, and they appeared, at times, to be making inroads. House leaders, who still say they will to bring the bill up for a vote Thursday, expressed optimism that they can still cobble together support to pass the bill. They’re hoping for another boost from Trump, who is expected to meet one-on-one with a slew of GOP holdouts throughout the day. He’s also planning to meet again with the Freedom Caucus Thursday morning.

After a day of ferrying between the Capitol and the White House, conservatives secured a commitment from House leaders to consider a proposal that would eliminate Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” — a set of regulations that requires insurers to cover a broad array of benefits. Conservatives have argued that these requirements drove up the cost of health insurance and restricted consumer choice.

Yet after House leaders signaled they were open to that measure, Freedom Caucus members pushed for even more: a repeal of all the Obamacare regulations, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions — a non-starter with most Republican lawmakers.

Even before the blow-up over the concession to conservatives, moderate GOP members began peeling off.

Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith of New Jersey both announced their opposition to the bill. So did Rep. Dan Donovan of New York and Rep. David Young of Iowa.

Republican leaders, who know they won’t get a single Democratic vote, can only afford to lose 22 members in their 237-member caucus.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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