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Obamacare repeal vote too close to call

President Donald Trump’s ultimatum to Republicans to overturn the Democratic health care law they’ve been campaigning against for years heads to the House floor Friday for a momentous showdown that will test the GOP’s ability to govern.

And no one, not even the people in charge of counting the votes, can say what will happen.

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Top House leaders, squeezed by hardline conservatives and skittish moderates, privately worry that too many Republican lawmakers have publicly panned the health care proposal they crafted, making them less susceptible to last-minute arm-twisting and a pressure campaign from the White House. But they also saw signs that the resistance has begun to weaken in the face of Trump’s Thursday night ultimatum: pass my bill or leave Obamacare in place.

“After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!” Trump tweeted Friday morning. Minutes later, he pleaded with recalcitrant conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who are threatening to sink the bill, to remember their priorities. “The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!”

The intense jockeying leading up to the expected Friday afternoon vote has produced a rare moment of genuine uncertainty in Congress. A win would be a big confidence boost for the new president, as well as for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has staked much of his own political capital on passing the bill.

Eleventh-hour attempts to corral wavering Republicans led to some expensive dealmaking as the bill gets its final touches in committee. A handful of moderate Republicans — including New York Rep. Elise Stefanik and Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy — hailed the addition of $ 15 billion for maternity care, as well as mental health and substance.”

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But it’s also not clear all the bleeding has stopped.

“I cannot vote for the most recent draft of the American Health Care Act,” Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican freshman from Arizona, announced after Trump’s ultimatum. “In its current configuration, the AHCA keeps the framework of Obamacare in place and continues to provide massive subsidies.”

One reason for the uncertainty: House leaders are being squeezed at both ends of their 237-member caucus, and they have little room for error. With Democrats unanimously opposed to the measure, Republicans can lose no more than 21 or 22 votes.

Already more than a dozen moderate Republicans have staked out positions against the measure. Several, including Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, New York Rep. Dan Donovan, New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance and Iowa Rep. David Young, reiterated that opposition late Thursday. Several hardline House conservatives are promising to join them, from Michigan Rep. Justin Amash to Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks.

Trump’s gambit is simple: dare the House’s hard-right band of burn-it–down conservatives, the Freedom Caucus, to vote against the best chance they’ve ever had to deal a mortal blow to Obamacare. Most of the three-dozen Freedom Caucus members have rejected the plan so far because they say it doesn’t do enough to rip Obamacare’s mandates from the books and lower premiums for their constituents.

But a last-minute flurry of amendments blessed by the White House included a provision to scrap a core element of Obamacare: a set of required benefits insurers must offer, from maternity care to mental health coverage. Conservatives say axing those mandates will enable consumers to purchase cheaper plans and foster more competition.

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But the Freedom Caucus also says it isn’t enough: they also want to strip the law’s remaining regulations, including a popular provision to guarantee coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

Trump’s ultimatum may have spooked them, however. Late Thursday, there were signs that many of the most ardent Freedom Caucus members were at least considering support for the measure.

One wildcard will be the role of House Democrats. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants have been blasting the GOP bill, and they expect all 194 members of their caucus to unite in opposition. What’s unclear is whether they’ll employ procedural motions to slow down the bill and turn the screws on scrambling House Republicans.

Asked Friday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if the White House and GOP leadership-backed bill has enough votes to pass, Mulvaney, himself a former Freedom Caucus member, said “don’t know.”

POLITICO Podcast: The Global Politico

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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