Where Obamacare Repeal Stands And What It Means For House Republicans

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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The House left for its two-week Easter recess Thursday without passing its Obamacare repeal bill, leaving questions about what comes next in terms of health-care reform.

Leadership announced a last-minute Rules Committee meeting on an amendment to the American Health Care Act — put forward by House Freedom Caucus members Gary Palmer of Alabama and David Schweikert of Arizona — allowing them to go back to their districts with the message they are making progress on the bill. But some speculate if members can’t strike a deal, it could be catastrophic for some of their political futures.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told House Speaker Paul Ryan his job could be at risk if he fails to get something passed during a meeting with White House officials Wednesday night, Politico reports.

The administration is calling on leadership to push members to come to a consensus following the bill being pulled off the floor in March due to a lack of votes — a major blow to the GOP’s message of unity. In the wake of the political blunder, top Republicans have been cautious in their approach, saying they are taking a bottom-up approach, allowing conservatives and moderates to come together on changes. Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise have all repeatedly said they don’t want to put an “artificial timeline” in place, as it might be counterproductive to making improvements to the bill. With the White House looking for a win, the pressure is on for Congress to get something done quickly.

Leadership has largely taken a back seat on their second attempt to make good on their campaign promise, allowing Vice President Mike Pence, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Priebus to take the reins on the negotiation process. Pence, Mulvaney and Priebus met with top members of the three largest House GOP caucuses, which represent the different factions of the conference — the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee and Tuesday Group — Tuesday evening in an attempt to strike a deal. But despite members leaving the meeting asserting progress had been made, bill text remained unseen and finger-pointing continued Wednesday.

The House Freedom Caucus, the powerful conservative group that’s been responsible for strong-arming leadership on a number of issues since it was established in 2015, took the brunt of the heat for the lower chamber’s failure to pass the initial legislation. As concessions were made to the group, the bill began to lose the support of a number of Tuesday Group members who said they feared the changes could result in a loss of coverage for their constituents.

Moderate members accused the HFC of “moving the goal post” during negotiations, arguing their demands were unreasonable. HFC Chairman Mark Meadows has said the group has been trying to get to a yes, but doesn’t believe the bill in its original form would have brought down premiums in a meaningful way. The group is calling for the repeal of a number of the Title I regulations and the removal of the community ratings system. The administration has floated the idea of allowing states to opt for a waiver on Obamacare regulations, hoping the compromise would placate both sides. Members of the HFC have said, if the proposal is put in text, the majority of the group would vote for the measure.

The White House, as well as a number of House members, reportedly pushed for members to delay recess until they finished their work on health care, but with a number of sticking points still unresolved, lawmakers left to head back home. Proponents of leaving for district work weeks argued some breathing room could be good formembers in terms of coming together. McCarthy assured conversations would continue over the next two weeks and it’s possible the lower chamber could be called back to Washington early if they get the votes, He also said he thinks the Palmer-Schweikert amendment is a clear indication things were starting to congeal.

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