Republicans work to drum up support for health care bill hours before vote

Washington, D.C.- With just hours to go before a scheduled House vote, Republican leaders are still working to secure the 215 votes necessary to pass the health care bill that would largely repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

House leaders and various Republican factions worked late into the night to work out a deal for the American Health Care Act that would appease enough moderates and conservatives to pass but as of Thursday morning they remained short on votes to pass the measure.

The House is currently in recess until a path forward emerges. A group of conservatives are meeting with President Donald Trump Thursday morning to persuade the hold outs to come on board. But while negotiations are continuing with those on the far right, more moderate Republicans are coming out in opposition.

The latest is Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who put out a release Thursday morning stating her opposition.

“While I appreciate this week’s effort by Speaker Ryan and his leadership team to better protect older Americans from health care cost increases, the difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan huddled with moderate Republicans Wednesday night for two-and-a-half hours over pizza and snacks to hash out a way to move forward. But as rank-and-file members filed out, many taking a back way to avoid the press, revealing little, there were indications that the negotiations had not gone well.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Penn., released a statement after the meeting, announcing that he’d vote “no.”

“I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals,” Dent said.

The opposition from Herrera and Dent pushed NBC’s tally of Republicans against, or leaning against, the bill to 30 — higher than it was two days ago.

Speaker Ryan presented the group with the demands of conservative Republicans who have also been holding out over different concerns and asked what would be “acceptable,” according to a source in the room.

The tenor of the negotiations changed Wednesday evening after the White House, responsible for negotiating with the conservatives while Ryan was tasked with the moderates, told critical members that they’d consider their demands. Those demands include removing the Essential Health Benefits, which requires insurance plans to cover a minimum number of services including maternity care, emergency room care, hospitalization and mental health care and more.

That came as members of the House Freedom Caucus traveled to the White House to meet with both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, the latest — and not last — of numerous in-person meetings on the issue between these members.

If the planned vote happens Thursday, it will come on the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Former President Barack Obama released a statement praising the legislation.

“America is stronger because of the Affordable Care Act,” Obama wrote in a statement.

President Trump has upped the pressure on Republican holdouts, threatening political retribution against conservatives who vote against it in a meeting with House members earlier in the week. On Thursday morning, he made a public appeal to up the pressure on members via Twitter:

House leadership has been reluctant to include the main changes that the conservatives want because of Senate rules that are very particular in the contents of the bill. The reason Republicans are passing the health care bill this is way is so that they can do it with a simple majority instead of the usual 60-vote margin that would require Democratic support.

“It is our leadership team that has set an arbitrary deadline — we are happy to keep working with the white house and the leadership team but we don’t think the arbitrary deadline of (Thursday) really means anything,” said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who is voting against the bill unless desired changes are made.

The intense negotiations come as outside groups are putting more pressure on lawmakers. The Charles and David Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners have reserved “seven figures” to reward members who oppose the bill. The development comes as President Donald Trump told Republicans a day earlier that they’d be lose their seats if they voted against the Republican plan. And another conservative group, Club for Growth, is running television ads in some Republican districts to push members to vote against it.

Members of the Freedom Caucus are heading back to the White House again Thursday for more talks ahead of a vote still slated to happen early this evening.

Original article from NBC News

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