Trump to House Republicans: Support Health Care Bill or Obamacare Stays
In a mad dash to secure support for the Republican health care bill, President Donald Trump issued an ultimatum to House Republicans late Thursday: pass the law, or keep the Affordable Care Act in place. Trump is dealing with a splintered House: the far-right flank, including the Freedom Caucus, thinks that the bill isn’t extreme enough. On the other hand, moderate Republicans want the bill to preserve some elements of Obamacare, like Medicaid spending. The House is expected to weigh in on the bill at 4:45 Friday afternoon–though the vote was originally expected for Thursday, so a further delay is not unthinkable.
“We have a great bill, and I think we have a good chance, but it’s only politics,” Trump said Thursday after a day of negotiations at the White House with members of the Freedom Caucus. It seems the ultraconservative group of House Republicans successfully wrangled Trump, who agreed to some of their requested changes to the bill: no guarantees for maternity care, emergency services, or mental health and wellness programs. Members of the Freedom Caucus, an increasingly powerful group, have threatened to oppose the bill unless it was amended in a more conservative fashion.
“We’re committed to stay here until we get it done,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), and the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said on Thursday. “So whether the vote is tonight, tomorrow or five days from here, the president will get a victory.” But even after what seemed like a successful meeting, Trump is upping the pressure on the Freedom Caucus to support the bill. On Friday morning, Trump tweeted:
The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2017
The Freedom Caucus is not the only skeptical Republican faction that is demanding changes to the existing health bill, the American Health Care Act. Moderate Republicans–in the House and the Senate–would like to see changes made in the opposite direction; Medicaid spending, which covers many of their constituents, is a vital component of the bill for them. So the quagmire then, for Trump, and for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), the bill’s architect, is how to unite the competing Republican visions for the bill. No Democrats are expected to support the legislation, and only 22 Republicans can dissent for the bill to pass.
Even if Trump gets his way, and the bill passes the House on Friday, it will likely get a major facelift in the Senate before hitting his desk for a signature. On Thursday, President Barack Obama, whose health care bill has been mercilessly targeted by Republicans for seven years, sent a convivial message of hope to his followers on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the signing of Obamacare.
“I’ve always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years,” Obama wrote. “So 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 — that’s something we all should welcome.”