Republicans Cancel Thursday Vote on Health Care Bill Due To Lack of Support

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, talks to the media Thursday after meeting with President Donald Trump about the health care bill. | AP Photo

The president made what he called a final offer, and arch-conservatives rejected it.

President Donald Trump and conservative House Freedom Caucus members failed to strike a deal on the GOP Obamacare replacement Thursday, endangering the prospects of passage and all but assuring any immediate vote on the measure would fail.

Hours later, House leaders canceled a planned Thursday night vote on the legislation. There was no immediate word when a vote might occur.

Negotiations between Trump and the arch-conservatives opponents of the bill reached at least a temporary standstill after Freedom Caucus members were told recent concessions to the far-right represented a final offer. The group rejected that, wanting more.

Trump’s inability to clinch an agreement means that Speaker Paul Ryan does not likely have the votes needed to pass the measure. The Wisconsin Republican can afford to lose only 22 votes on the floor. The House Freedom Caucus, however, has three dozen members, who have vowed to block the bill unless they get what they want. Roughly a dozen centrist Republicans also have come out against the bill.

A senior administration official in the room for the meeting at the White House said most members left the meeting as “no’s” but suggest some flipped to “yes.” While Trump did not go around the room and ask people how they would vote, it became immediately clear GOP leaders did not appear to win over enough members to put the measure over the top.

“We’re down right now,” the official said.

Before the Thursday vote was scrapped, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at his daily briefing that “nothing leads me to believe that” the vote would be put off. He expressed optimism after Trump’s meeting with the Freedom Caucus that Republicans will ultimately round up the votes.

“We walked out with more members in support of the American Health Care Act today than we started the day with,” Spicer said. “And I continue to see that number climb hour by hour. And I anticipate that we will get there.”

A spokesman for Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) tweeted after the White House gathering that there’s “no deal yet, but negotiations haven’t stopped — Rep. Meadows remains hopeful and will continue working.”

However, a senior administration official involved in discussions with the group said the “House Freedom Caucus is freeing members to vote their conscience.”

There were daunting obstacles to a deal heading into the White House meeting Thursday morning. A number of Freedom Caucus members had suggested Trump’s latest concession — repealing Obamacare’s mandate that insurance plans provide a minimum level of “essential” benefits — wasn’t enough. The group wants a complete repeal of all Affordable Care Act regulations — including popular provisions Trump promised he would maintain.

The conservatives’ target list encompasses a prohibition against discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and a requirement that adults up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance.

“Repealing [essential health benefits], w/out making other substantial changes, would make the bill worse, not better,” tweeted Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash (R-Mich.). “It would hurt the sickest people on exchanges.”

The Freedom Caucus has been a constant thorn in the side of House GOP leadership, sinking bills its members believe were too accommodating to Democrats. The group was expected to fall in line behind Trump after he won, but it has refused to do so on the health care bill.

Now, Freedom Caucus members are threatening to trip up not John Boehner or Ryan, but a Republican commander-in-chief who remains highly popular in their districts.

Many House Republicans are furious with the Freedom Caucus, saying the group keeps moving the goal posts and that it really wants to sink the health care bill altogether.

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SOURCE: Politico – Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey