- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
The House Republican leadership’s bill to overhaul the US healthcare system may have hit a serious roadblock Wednesday evening.
Rep. Mark Meadows, who leads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters he had enough votes to block the bill, the American Health Care Act, in a vote in the House.
Without those votes and with all Democrats most likely voting against the legislation, the bill would not be able to advance beyond the House.
Meadows and the House Freedom Caucus believe the bill does not go far enough in its repeal of Obamacare, the healthcare law officially known as the Affordable Care Act. They have argued for changes to strip out some of the ACA’s regulations and proposed elements of the new AHCA.
The developments add more uncertainty to the legislation after some moderate Republicans in the Senate also suggested they would not vote for the bill as written, screeching to a halt the AHCA’s progression in the upper chamber.
Perhaps sensing the resistance, both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan opened the door wider for changes to the AHCA during media appearances on Wednesday.
Speaking with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, Trump said the AHCA was “preliminary” and the GOP was “going to have a negotiation” on the bill.
“I’m, in a little way, I’m an arbitrator,” Trump told Carlson. “We have the conservatives, we have the more liberal side of the Republican Party, we have the left, we have the right within the Republicans themselves. We got a lot of fighting going on – we have no Democrats, again, no matter what we do we’re never going to get a Democrat. Maybe we’ll get one along the way.”
Ryan echoed the comments during his weekly press briefing on Wednesday, saying that because Republicans had received a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday they could make “refinements and improvements” to the AHCA.
“What’s happening in this legislative process is we’re getting feedback from various members on how we can improve the bill – now that we have the score we know exactly what we’re dealing with,” Ryan said. “So now that we have the score, we can incorporate feedback to improve this bill, to refine this bill, and those kinds of conversations are occurring between the White House, the House, and the Senate and our members. It’s premature to get into the conclusion of those things.”
Ryan also said the GOP was looking for a “sweet spot that gets us a big vote count, that gets us our passage, that makes all members happy.”
After presenting an initial timeline to advance the AHCA to a full House vote by next week, Ryan also backed off his planned schedule on Wednesday. He said that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy would have a better sense and that the GOP was dealing with “snow-day issues” after the Capitol was closed for business on Tuesday.
In the end, however, Ryan said he was “confident our members will keep their word” to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The bill faces its next major test as it heads for a markup, a process of adding amendments and making changes, with the House Budget Committee on Thursday.