WASHINGTON — President Trump dropped by on the House Republican caucus this morning in advance of a planned Thursday vote on the American Health Care Act as most House Freedom Caucus members remained not swayed to vote for the Obamacare replacement.
According to sources speaking to The Hill, Trump warned Republicans in the closed-door meeting “I believe many of you will lose in 2018” if they don’t pass the AHCA.
“He told us if we don’t pass this bill on Thursday, it will put everything in jeopardy that he wants to do, his agenda,” said Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) after the meeting.
Trump reportedly pinpointed Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who stood as the president began talking about him. “I think Mark Meadows will get there too… because honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks,” Trump said, adding, “Oh Mark, I’m coming after you. I hope Mark will be with us in the end.”
Meadows told reporters after the meeting that if opposing the plan derided as Obamacare Lite means losing his job, so be it.
“I serve at the pleasure of the people of western North Carolina, and when you serve at their pleasure, it’s only those 750,000 people that can send you home. It’s a temporary job, and I’ve known that from day one,” he said, adding he’s “still a no, because the bill we’re currently considering does not lower premiums for the vast majority of Americans.”
In a meeting with reporters outside of the caucus meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Trump “was here to do what he does best, and that is to close the deal.”
“Thursday will be the day that we keep out word that we will repeal and replace, and continue on with phase two and phase three,” vowed Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Trump “has gotten directly engaged in negotiating with our members.”
“And he reached out and he said ‘bring me your best ideas.’ And you saw every element of our conference come together and bring those ideas — everybody from Republican Study Committee members to [moderate Republican] Tuesday Group members, to Freedom Caucus members, who came forward and President Trump brought those ideas together. And we agreed in the package that we put together last night to add all of those elements to the bill — elements that make it even better for families,” Scalise said.
Ryan’s office announced amendments last night intended to wrangle doubtful Republicans including one that “moves up repeal of Obamacare taxes from 2018 to 2017, strikes a provision allowing excess tax credits to be deposited into Health Savings Accounts, and provides budgetary space for the Senate to increase tax credits for older Americans,” and another that “immediately prohibits any additional states from expanding the current broken Medicaid program, allows states to opt-in to a traditional Medicaid block grant as well as implement work-requirements for Medicaid, protects the equitable state-federal partnership, and enhances the growth rate for the aged and disabled population on Medicaid.”
Ryan has also continued doing a media offensive, pitching the bill on conservative TV and radio shows.
“I think people respect and understand this legislative process. I think members once they realize this in the final analysis that we’re getting the vast majority of the things that we think should be in this bill. And then at the end of the day, it really is a choice. Do you want to stick with the Obamacare status quo? Do you want to stick with the idea that we made a promise and we are not going to keep it? Or do we want to replace this bill with clearly a much, much better law, something that makes good on our principles and our promises, and gets this country on the right track?” the Speaker told reporters on the Hill this morning.
“I think people in the final analysis will make that decision and I feel very good,” Ryan added. “And I think the president — I’ve got to just say, editorial, the president just came here and knocked the ball out of the park. He knocked the cover off the ball, and explained to our members how it’s important to unify; how it’s important to work together; how we are advancing our principles and we are doing what we told the American people we would do.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told Fox last night that Ryan’s revisions still don’t repeal Obamacare and thus aren’t good enough.
“Phase two and phase three are never going to happen. So when you have those four key factors, how can you support this legislation? What we’re trying to do is change it in a fundamental way to get our support,” Jordan said. “But right now, we just — we can’t be for this legislation in its current form.”
There are 29 members in the Freedom Caucus. At least 21 have said they’re still opposed to the bill.
There are currently 237 GOP seats in the House. The threshold to pass the AHCA is 216 votes.
“Every conservative organization, major conservative organization in the country is opposed to it. Every conservative healthcare policy expert I know has problems with the bill. Five conservative senators are against it and a whole bunch of conservatives in the House are against it,” Jordan said. “And we’re supposed to take it or leave it? That’s not how the process works.”