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Trump fails to strike health care deal with Freedom Caucus

President Donald Trump will huddle with the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus at the White House, just hours before Speaker Paul Ryan is set to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. | AP Photo

UPDATE 1:35 p.m.:

President Donald Trump failed to reach a deal with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to amend the Republican Obamacare replacement bill ahead of an expected vote later Thursday.

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Many lawmakers from the three-dozen-member caucus huddled at the White House with Trump and his senior leadership team, but they emerged without guaranteeing their support for the GOP bill. With little margin for defections and eroding support from moderates, House leaders need most Freedom Caucus members to support the bill.

Original story below:

President Donald Trump will engage in the most high-stakes negotiation of his young presidency Thursday, as he tries to sell hard-line conservatives on a GOP Obamacare replacement they despise.

Trump will huddle with the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus at the White House, just hours before Speaker Paul Ryan is set to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

There were daunting obstacles to a deal heading into the decisive meeting.

A number of Freedom Caucus members have suggested Trump’s latest concession — repealing Obamacare’s mandate that insurance plans provide a minimum level of “essential” benefits — isn’t enough. The group wants a complete repeal of all Affordable Care Act regulations — including popular provisions Trump promised he would maintain.

The conservatives’ target list encompasses a prohibition against discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and a requirement that adults up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance.

“Repealing [essential health benefits], w/out making other substantial changes, would make the bill worse, not better,” tweeted Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash (R-Mich.). “It would hurt the sickest people on exchanges.”

If Trump fails to clinch an agreement with the group, the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare will be all but dead.

Ryan (R-Wis.) can afford to lose only 22 votes on the floor. The House Freedom Caucus has three dozen members, who have vowed to block the bill unless they get what they want. Roughly a dozen centrist Republicans also have come out against the bill.

The Freedom Caucus has been a constant thorn in the side of House GOP leadership, sinking bills its members believe were too accommodating to Democrats. The group was expected to fall in line behind Trump after he won. Its refusal to do so on the health care bill has moved the legislation toward the far right.

But now, the Freedom Caucus has to decide whether it’s truly willing to deliver a stinging defeat to the Republican president.

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Many House Republicans are furious at the Freedom Caucus, saying the group keeps moving the goal posts, and they argue that the group really just wants to sink the health care bill altogether.

“The president is good at negotiating, but he has to have someone who wants to get to yes,” Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), an ardent Trump supporter, told POLITICO. “I was never able to sell a car or a truck to someone who didn’t want a car or a truck. It just doesn’t work. And that’s where we are right now. I don’t think they’re really interested in getting to an ‘end.’”

He then added: “Maybe the ‘end’ is: making sure it doesn’t pass.”

Group insiders contend they haven’t changed their demands at all. They said they’ve always needed a repeal of all Obamacare regulations.

The Freedom Caucus risks overplaying its hand if it continues to hold out support for the bill. Trump has made clear he wants to get health care passed and move on. If he loses his patience with them, they could find themselves in his crosshairs.

The meeting with Trump comes not 24 hours after the group huddled with Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s most senior advisers. In recent days, the group had been emphasizing that it needed a repeal of Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” requirement — something GOP leaders for months have said would be “fatal” to the bill in the Senate because of the chamber’s arcane budget rules.

But Trump officials asked Ryan to reassess that diagnosis, and GOP leadership agreed to add the provision.

The odds of the entire group coming on board without a commitment to axing all Affordable Care Act regulations, however, look slim.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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