House Members Could See Recess Cut Short For Obamacare Repeal Vote

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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GOP leadership in the House notified lawmakers Thursday their two-week Easter recess could be cut short, as the conference is growing closer to reaching a consensus on Obamacare repeal legislation.

Roughly 20 of the top Republicans representing the different factions of the conference gathered at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s weekly press conference to show their support for an amendment that would establish a Federal Invisible Risk Sharing Program in an attempt to bring down premiums by subsidizing high-cost individuals. The amendment was introduced by Republican Reps. Gary Palmer of Alabama and David Schweikert of Arizona, members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Ryan said there is still work to be done, but that it “brings us closer to the final agreement that we all want to achieve.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy notified members of the conference that a last-minute meeting of the Rules Committee would take place Thursday to add the amendment to the American Health Care Act.

“Should we be prepared to advance our bill through the House in the coming two weeks, we will advise Members immediately and give you sufficient time to return to Washington,” McCarthy told members in a memo.

Leadership still lacks the votes to pass the legislation, which was pulled off the floor in March due to a lack of consensus, but said talks will continue to ensure they don’t lose momentum during the district work period.

“Well I think there has been a lot of progress this week and we’re just going to continue to work on that progress, and whenever we get to the point where we have the votes we’ll call the vote,” McCarthy told reporters.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise echoed McCarthy’s sentiments, saying there are “a couple final pieces that are being negotiated,” but they are inching closer.

“There were a lot of really good conversations over the weekend, there will continue to be a lot of good conversations with the main people who have been involved in these discussions — so that’s not going to end in the next few days,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And if we get an agreement, come back and get it done.”

Members of the House Freedom Caucus are still pushing for changes to the bill’s text allowing states the option to waive out of an Obamacare regulation — a sticking point for moderate members. A GOP source said the powerful conservative group met Thursday, with a number of members shifting from no to yes.

The message of unity comes just one day after finger-pointing over why they haven’t struck a deal, with conservatives alleging moderate members aren’t serious about repealing the ACA despite having campaigned on it. Moderates then fired back, with New York Rep. Chris Collins going as far as to say the House Freedom Caucus has been disingenuous with their assertion they are negotiating in good faith.

Despite the squabbling over the impasse, lawmakers across the conference put on a good face as they a left to return to their districts.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said there were “some ups-and-downs, some rollercoasters this week,” but that members are starting to realize “Obamacare can’t be the law of the land.”

Walker, who orchestrated a meeting between leaders of the top three GOP caucuses — the HFC, RSC and Tuesday Group — and top members of the administration Tuesday evening, said he thinks conservatives and moderates have made substantial progress from where they were two weeks ago.

“What we did in the meeting that we led Tuesday night with the vice president, what was important for us to do, was kind of peel back the layers, because there was some talking past each other,” he told reporters. “And as a former pastor, if you are counseling or something, it’s good to have separate meetings, but if you are going to have a resolution, you need to bring all the parties together.”

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