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The effort by the White House to revive the Republican bill to overhaul healthcare appears to have hit multiple roadblocks in the past two days, as a deal that would please all sides of the House GOP conference has again proved hard to nail down.
After a two-hour negotiation session Tuesday night between White House representatives and members of various GOP House caucuses, major sticking points were left unresolved. And the future of the American Health Care Act – the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare – is as murky as ever.
Accusations of a double-faced deal, a significant policy disagreement, and a tight schedule all threaten to derail the AHCA.
The White House’s effort to revive the bill, which was pulled from the House floor before a vote in March, is being led by Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
The group has been attempting to bring the conservative House Freedom Caucus on board to secure enough votes to pass the bill through the House. At the same time, the White House team is attempting to keep the bill palatable for the more moderate members of the Tuesday Group.
According to Politico’s Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey, during meetings on Tuesday, the White House team offered the two sides different deals – or they at least felt that way.
The disagreements are over two Obamacare regulations regarding so-called essential health benefits and community ratings. Freedom Caucus members want these regulations repealed to ensure what they consider a freer market for insurance, while moderates believe a repeal would undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions and leave sick Americans without affordable coverage.
In a meeting with moderates, Pence seemed to hint that a repeal of the provisions would be limited and subject to approval by the federal government.
But in a later meeting with Freedom Caucus members, however, lawmakers said Pence painted the repeal of these regulations as simpler and said the federal government would rubber-stamp any state that wished to do so.
According to Politico, members of both sides said there were a variety of options the White House team promised to one side but not the other.
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Overall, the two sides do not appear any closer to taking any meaningful steps toward a deal.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that the negotiations were still in “conceptual stages.”
Lawmakers said the two-hour meeting didn’t bring the sides together.
“There were no agreements tonight in principle, and certainly no agreements in terms of a foundation,” Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters after the meeting.
As was the case during the first negotiations over the AHCA, it appears the Freedom Caucus is forcing the bill further to the right and pushing for the repeal of the regulations. This would make support from moderate Republicans less and less likely.
According to David Nather at Axios, some GOP leaders believe the changes being proposed to appease the Freedom Caucus are losing the bill votes rather than winning them.
With a vote on the bill this week, before a two-week break for Congress, looking increasingly unlikely, it appears, again, that “Trumpcare” isn’t moving forward anytime soon.