Politics & Government

The Obamacare replacement bill meets its final hurdle in House Rules Committee

From left, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Budget Committee Chair Diane Black, R-Tenn., gather in the House Rules Committee to shape the final version of the Republican health care bill before it goes to the floor for debate and a vote, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
From left, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Budget Committee Chair Diane Black, R-Tenn., gather in the House Rules Committee to shape the final version of the Republican health care bill before it goes to the floor for debate and a vote, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Members of the House Rules Committee debated 29 amendments to the Obamacare replacement bill on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before the bill is set for a vote on the House floordespite more defections from conservative and moderate House Republicans throughout the day that put House Speaker Paul Ryan’s signature legislation on the brink of failure.

McClatchy counts over 40 Republicans who have serious concerns about the bill and are prepared to vote no Thursday, nearly double the number of GOP defections House leadership can afford for the bill to pass.

“While the American Health Care Act, legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, is a very good start, it does not yet get it right and therefore I cannot support it in its’ present form,” said Iowa Rep. David Young, a moderate Republican, in a statement on Wednesday.

The Rules Committee, led by Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, debated the 29 amendments including two purely symbolic measures that would fully repeal Obamacare offered by Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Mo Brooks of Alabama. Other amendments like a package sponsored by House leadership, were genuine attempts to court conservatives and moderates who are wavering on the bill.

Democrats on the committee tried to stop debate on the bill until an updated Congressional Budget Office Score was released, but were outvoted by Republicans.

“I don’t think we should be meeting on a bill until we know how many people are hurt,” said Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, testified to the Rules Committee that he expects a Congressional Budget Office score before the bill receives a vote on the House floor.

“The Congressional Budget Office is made up of professionals who are trying to get as close to an answer as possible,” Sessions said.

 

Republicans offered 24 of the 29 amendments still being debated on Wednesday.

Another amendment by Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., would lower the age where children could remain on their parent’s health insurance from 26 to 23.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, offered an amendment that would end the grandfathering in of Medicaid expansion at the end of 2017 instead of 2020, a provision that would likely appeal to some of the conservative Republicans who could vote against the bill as written. Barton offered a similar amendment during the 27-hour-long Energy and Commerce Committee markup but it ultimately did not receive a vote.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., acknowledged that the Rules Committee process was a Republican bid to shore up support for the much-maligned bill.

“Since you’re having trouble getting to 216 are you going to give an updated CBO score when you offer something to sweeten it for your own members?” Hastings said.

While the Rules Committee continued to debate amendments to the bill, President Donald Trump continued to court wayward members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus at the White House on Wednesday morning.

The gambit didn’t appear to work. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky urged Freedom Caucus members to oppose the bill on Capitol Hill in a meeting on Wednesday afternoon after they met with the president.

“We promised to repeal Obamacare and improve health care for Americans,” Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash, R-Mich., said in a tweet. “This bill does neither.”

If about 21 Republicans vote against the bill it will fail. The final vote tally needed to pass the bill could change as a few Democratic members are not on Capitol Hill for personal reasons.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty

  Comments