WASHINGTON — Former President Obama surfaced this morning to defend the Affordable Care Act as House Republicans tried to wrangle last-minute votes for today’s promised vote on the American Health Care Act.
“Ultimately, after a century of talk, decades of trying, and a year of bipartisan debate, our generation was the one that succeeded” in passing healthcare reform, Obama declared in a statement issued by his office. “We finally declared that in America, healthcare is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.”
“Since the law passed, the pace of healthcare inflation has slowed dramatically,” he added. “Prices are still rising, just as they have every year for decades – but under this law, they’ve been rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. Families who get coverage through their employer are paying, on average, thousands of dollars less per year than if costs kept rising as fast as they were before the law. And reality continues to discredit the false claim that this law is in a ‘death spiral,’ because while it’s true that some premiums have risen, the vast majority of marketplace enrollees have experienced no average premium hike at all. And so long as the law is properly administered, this market will remain stable.”
Obama argued that the law “is no ‘job-killer,’ because America’s businesses went on a record-breaking streak of job growth in the seven years since I signed it.”
He said everyone should welcome changes to the law if “Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals.”
“The Affordable Care Act is law only because millions of Americans mobilized, and organized, and decided that this fight was about more than health care – it was about the character of our country. It was about whether the wealthiest nation on Earth would make sure that neither illness nor twist of fate would rob us of everything we’ve worked so hard to build. It was about whether we look out for one another, as neighbors, and fellow citizens, who care about each other’s success,” he continued. “This fight is still about all that today. And Americans who love their country still have the power to change it.”
After Republican leaders made overnight changes to the bill in an effort to secure enough votes for passage, President Trump added an 11:30 a.m. meeting with the conservative House Freedom Caucus to his schedule. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had been scheduled to give his weekly press conference at 11:30 a.m., bumped that to 3:30 p.m.
There were reports this morning that the Freedom Caucus and Trump had reached an agreement of sorts — former chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told CNN “there’s progress being made but we’ll see if we can get an agreement that’s going to do what we’ve always had as the goal ” — but Republicans are hemorrhaging votes elsewhere, too.
There are currently 237 GOP seats in the House. The threshold to pass the AHCA is 216 votes.
The latest Hill Whip List puts 29 GOPs in the “no” column, with six leaning that way and 19 undecided.
Moderate Republican Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) announced “this legislation misses the mark.”
“After careful deliberation, I cannot support the bill and will oppose it. 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,” Dent said. “…I hope that the House can step back from this vote and arbitrary deadline to focus on getting health care reform done right to ensure that American families have access to affordable health care.”
Libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) created a visual to show his disdain for the bill and its last-minute changes:
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 22, 2017
Massie told MSNBC that he wanted to quash “a lot of speculation that Republicans might be changing their votes, a lot of arms being twisted.”
“I’m still very much opposed to the bill. I think it’s worse than Obamacare,” he declared. “We are replacing mandate subsidies and penalties with mandate subsidies and penalties. And, frankly, it’s not very well thought out. And right now here in the last four hours it’s like a rocket that’s lost its fins. It’s getting less stable in terms of planning.”
“I don’t know where this thing’s going to land. Hopefully, it lands in the ocean and this thing just sinks. But my main — my chief objection is I don’t think it will lower the price of insurance or health care for Americans. And so I can’t be for that.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday that “there is no plan B” for House passage. “This is — there’s a plan A and plan A. We’re going to get this done.”