Reporting By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill
Here is the latest on the state of play on the omnibus spending bill and the health care bill.
The omnibus seems to be moving. Some conservatives have issues with it. Republicans will need help from Democrats to approve the bill. It's unclear if the GOP will be able to score a "majority of the majority (the so-called and ill-named "Hastert Rule"). Regardless, that bill goes the House Rules Committee tomorrow and to the floor Wednesday in the House. The Senate will handle the bill to fund the government either later in the day Wednesday or Thursday, ahead of the 11:59:59 pm et Friday funding deadline.
As such, the House appears to be reserving Thursday as the day to handle the health care measure on the floor..if they can.
One source said they were "confident" there would be a vote Thursday. But the same source said they were "not as confident" the bill would pass.
Fox is told they are getting closer. But they are still short. One senior House Republican source expressed concern about the White House predicting when the House may vote…but was even more exasperated by word from the White House that they were five to six votes short.
"You don't announce a whip count. You just don't," said the source.
The whip tally on any major issue is an extremely closely held figure…often just between the whip and a couple of key staffers or other members. Several sources on Capitol Hill openly contested that the vote tally was truly that close. Of the White House, one Republican source said "They just don't know."
Moreover, Republicans leadership sources point out that they need more than just one vote to win. They need several. That's because they don't want anyone to be able to point to a given member as casting the deciding vote on health care. Moreover, you always need a cushion, and a handful of "in case of emergency, break glass" votes to bail out the leadership should a vote begin to go sideways.
Republicans want to be ultra-confident that they have the votes on this before they put it on the floor.
As to sticking around later this week or next? Fox is told the GOP believes it could actually lose votes..because lawmakers sit around for a few days with nothing to do. So, they may be prepared to wait until later in May to advance the bill if they aren't ready this week.
Republicans are very leery about calling a vote and then having the measure fail on the floor. There are some theories on Capitol Hill now that the GOP should just roll the dice and go with it. But, as they say in the movies, "You play a dangerous game, Mr. Bond." If they call a vote and it fails, they can't put the genie back in the bottle. Moreover, the House GOPers are considering this health care plan under special budget reconciliation rules. Budget reconciliation doesn't mean a lot in the House. But it means EVERYTHING in the Senate. It allows the Senate to sidestep filibusters. THE ONLY WAY THE SENATE CAN PASS A HEALTH CARE BILL IS UNDER BUDGET RECONCILIATION. If the House goes to a roll call vote and fails..they have burned that reconciliation package. You only get one per year. This reconciliation package is technically the one from last year. The GOP needs to reserve "this year's" reconciliation package to do tax reform.
Vice President Pence came to the Capitol tonight to talk to a number of lawmakers. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) huddled with members in a separate office, known as the "Board of Education." So named, the "Board of Education" suite is where legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn (R-TX) often summoned lawmakers for "bourbon and branchwater" and to "educate" them as to how they should vote.
Ryan spoke at length on the House floor with Rep. Billy Long (R-MO). Long is a no vote..and very conservative. He would be a key member to watch for potential movement. Other members to keep an eye on are Reps. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, JAY-mee herr-AIR-uh BUTT-lerr) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). If any or all of those members flip to yes, that could be a good signal that the GOP has the votes to pass the bill.
It should also be noted that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), out for foot surgery..but not yet resigned..plans to return this week. That helps the cause.
So, all eyes should be on Thursday.
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