Emerging from all-night negotiations with the Republican Study Committee (RSC) on Friday, President Donald Trump announced that he had convinced conservative members of the House of Representatives to support his bill by making changes around the edges.
“All of these ‘no’s or potential ‘no’s are all ‘yes’es,” Trump declared, gesturing to the congressmen in the room. “And we made certain changes — frankly very little.” Those changes were optional Medicaid block grants and work incentives for all able-bodies Medicare recipients, RSC Chairman Mark Walker (R-Ala.) explained.
Walker declared that the RSC’s press conference with Trump was partially to “celebrate the American Health Care Act and moving forward with a yes.”
Trump further declared, “I want everyone to know, I’m 100 percent behind this. I want everybody to know that the press has not been speaking properly about how great this is going to be.” The president argued that “Obamacare is dead,” and added, “this is a great plan, this is going to be fantastic.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2017
But the AHCA, variously known as TrumpCare, RINOCare, Obamacare 2.0, Obamacare-Lite, and RyanCare, still draws opposition from many influential conservative Republicans.
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of 30 conservative Congressmen, responded to Trump’s declaration with a message on Twitter. “The House Freedom Caucus still opposes the GOP replacement bill in its current form,” the group tweeted.
The House Freedom Caucus still opposes the GOP replacement bill in its current form.
— House Freedom Caucus (@freedomcaucus) March 17, 2017
Many conservative activists have opposed the AHCA, with prominent groups calling on Republicans to keep their promise to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
On Wednesday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz led a rally in Washington, D.C. with the conservative group FreedomWorks, urging a full repeal of Obamacare and fundamental changes to AHCA.
Cruz teamed up with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, laying out three criteria for conservative health care reform: lowering insurance premiums, replacing Obamacare subsidies with a payroll tax cut for lower earners, and a full phase-out of the Medicaid expansion.
Cruz and Meadows argued that the AHCA does not repeal all of Obamacare’s insurance mandates immediately, it replaces subsidies with “yet another health-care entitlement,” and it does not include “true block grants for Medicaid funding.” On this third issue, Trump’s declaration should give hope — but the other two issues seemingly remain unresolved.
Two other conservative U.S. Senators, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Utah’s Mike Lee, have stood up against the AHCA, calling it “Obamacare Lite,” and calling on Republicans to keep their promise and fully repeal and replace Obamacare.
We must stand strong and stand together for real repeal.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 16, 2017
These three senators, Cruz, Lee, and Paul, would be enough to block the bill’s passage in the upper chamber, unless Democrats voted for the measure. Even if AHCA passes in the House, it would stall in the Senate.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 14, 2017
FreedomWorks is not alone in opposing the bill, however. Earlier this month, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) led a “You Promised” rally, and the group’s president and CEO both came out in opposition to the AHCA.
“It breaks a number of promises,” AFP CEO Luke Hilgemann declared. “Republicans in the House promised to fully repeal the law, all the mandates and all the taxes, everything. This proposal from last night simply does not do that. It does not do the job,” the group’s president, Tim Phillips, added.
These grassroots conservative organizations — and others, including Freedom Partners, the Club for Growth, and the Heritage Foundation’s political action arm — may still keep conservative Republicans from backing the bill when it comes up for a vote.
CNN reported that Republican leaders have promised a vote on the AHCA next Thursday, March 23, which is the seventh anniversary of President Obama signing Obamacare into law. That does not give President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and other congressional leaders much time to further revise the bill to bring conservatives onboard.
Click “Load More” to see Trump’s announcement.
Listen to Tyler O’Neil’s radio interview on TrumpCare here.