GOP Lawmakers Optimistic Consensus Will Be Reached On Obamacare Repeal

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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The House GOP Obamacare repeal bill looked all but dead after it was pulled from the floor in late-March due to a lack of consensus in the conference. But in the wake of the political blunder, efforts to revive the leadership-backed bill are in full swing, with a number of lawmakers hopeful the lower chamber will take action on the legislation before the end of the week.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said they are looking to take a bottom-up approach, with members of the different factions of the party being encouraged to work with each other in an attempt to see where they can find common ground. He noted it may be premature to say whether there will be a vote before Congress breaks for Easter recess at the end of the week, as they still don’t have legislative text or an agreement.

“Those productive talks are happening — we are at the concept stages right now,” Ryan told reporters after their conference meeting Tuesday morning. “The vice president has been instrumental in bringing together different groups in our conference to talk about concepts, so right now, we are just at that conceptual stage on how to move forward in a way that can get everybody to 216.”

Leadership was short on votes for the initial legislation, with members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) arguing it resembled the Affordable Care Act too closely, while moderates began to pull support as concessions were made to conservatives.

Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials have taken charge of the effort to unify the party around the bill, having met with both the HFC and the Tuesday Group caucus Monday. Both conservative and moderate members agreed they feel the party is in a more positive place than two weeks ago,

HFC Chairman Mark Meadows said they were anticipating text from the White House before Wednesday on the revised plan, which they will then review before deciding whether they can support the measure.

Texas Rep. Bill Flores, a member of the Republican Study Committee, said substantial progress has been made, but they aren’t where they need to be quite yet, adding it’s uncertain if they will move forward with a vote before Thursday evening.

“It’s really hard for me to guess,” he said. “I know we have a rule that we will vote on today that gives us the ability to move things on a short notice — it just depends on how people come together to move forward.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk told reporters he hopes they can manage to come together before they break.

“Let’s just keep working and try and get this thing done this week if we can,” he said. “If not as soon as we get back.”

A handful of lawmakers have floated the idea of pushing back recess until they pass the repeal legislation, since the bill was pulled, but the idea reportedly didn’t pick up much traction.

“There was, I believe, maybe two who got up and said that, there was also a member who got up and said we should take out time and get this right,” a source who attended the meeting told reporters.

Loudermilk said he’s had discussions of delaying the two-week break, but doesn’t think the momentum is there for it to happen.

“The idea is, yes, we need to get this done, but it’s important to get it done right,” he said.

According the the source inside the room, if the votes are there, leadership will likely consider changing the schedule.

“If at some point it becomes clear there is a pathway, they will reevaluate the schedule to make things work,” the source said.

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