President Trump warned Republican members of Congress that they stand to lose their seats if they don’t vote for the House GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan this week.
“I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done,” Trump said according to three Republicans. He said that he believed the Republican majority would also be in peril if the bill doesn’t pass.
“If we don’t get this done, we lose the House and the Senate,” the President told lawmakers at the closed-door meeting. But if they were successful in passing the bill, the President predicted, Republicans would win 10 seats in the Senate and make further gains in the House.
For seven years, Republicans have promised their constituents they would repeal of the former president’s signature legislative achievement. But the party is divided between conservatives and moderates over how to repeal the law.
The debate over what parts of Obamacare to repeal — and whether the Republicans will end up hurting their own constituents — has became a painful crucible for the party.
But it is not just a test for members of Congress. Trump promised to repeal Obamacare, and the political blowback will be just as sharp on his young and disorganized Administration. Trump’s thinly veiled threat capped weeks of lobbying by the president, who has tried to cajole lawmakers to embrace the bill and cut deals with others to win their support.
Speaking with lawmakers, the President Trump framed Thursday’s vote on the health care legislation as a binary choice between repealing the law, and keeping it in place indefinitely, according to several lawmakers in the meeting. President Trump also promised lawmakers unhappy with the bill that further changes could be made in the Senate.
The bill’s future is in the hands of a couple dozen skeptical lawmakers who believe the Republican legislation does not go far enough in lowering premiums and slashing Obamacare’s regulations. The toughest sell so far has been conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, led by Rep. Mark Meadows, who is opposed to the legislation.
Toward the end of his 45-minute speech, Trump singled out Meadows, saying he hoped he and the rest of the group would reconsider, saying, “Because honestly, a loss is not acceptable folks.”
“Oh Mark, I’m gonna come after you,” Trumps said as the crowd of Republicans laughed. Meadows stood up. “At the end I think Mark’s going to be with me,” Trump said, as Meadows turned slightly red.
But for conservatives in the Freedom Caucus, the threat of losing their seats was not enough. Meadows left the meeting unswayed, saying he would not vote for the bill unless bigger changes were made to bring insurance premiums down, which will likely rise next year under the current law.
“I serve at the pleasure of the people of western North Carolina,” Meadows told reporters as he emerged from the meeting. “It’s a temporary job, and I’ve known that since Day One.”
Some conservative lawmakers and outside groups have branded the House GOP plan as “Obamacare-lite,” and argue that it doesn’t go far or fast enough in repealing the legislation that Republicans have devoted the last seven years to opposing. Others doubt that Republicans can ever win over the necessary Democratic votes to pass its next phase of healthcare reforms, which will need 60 votes in the Senate.
As Trump was speaking on Tuesday, the conservative Club for Growth announced a $500,000 television campaign to pressure moderate Republicans to vote against the Ryan- and Trump-backed bill in a bid to sink it.
“President Trump was here to do what he does best: to close the deal,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told reporters after the meeting. “He’s all in and we’re all in.”
Late Monday, House Republicans released technical and policy changes to the bill, named the American Health Care Act, to win over members of their conference still on the fence. For conservatives, the amended bill will expedite the repeal of Medicaid expansion and of a host of taxes. For moderates, it includes a fix designed to make the bill’s effects less painful for those nearing retirement age. It also includes a special inducement to win over moderate Republicans from upstate New York by penalizing New York State for relying on rural counties for some Medicaid funding.
Lawmakers may vote without an updated “score” from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated earlier this month that the original legislation would save more than $300 billion over a decade and result in more than 20 million people losing their health insurance coverage.
Speaking Monday night at a campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump indicated that he was already losing patience with the haggling over the complex healthcare law. Instead, the president cast the legislation as an impediment to be overcome before he can tackle his priorities like trade adjustment, tax reform and infrastructure. But if Trump thinks his Tuesday marked the end of his involvement he’s in for a stark wake-up call. The legislation faces an even tougher road ahead in the Senate.
“The President always does a good job in these kinds of settings, but that doesn’t change the legislation,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a member of the Freedom Caucus. “The legislation still doesn’t do what I told the voters I was going to do.”
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