White House

Trump, in deal-making mode, says conservatives backing health bill after 'changes'

President speaks out at Republican committee meeting, says ObamaCare is dead

 

President Trump claimed Friday that House conservatives previously opposed to ObamaCare replacement legislation moving through the chamber are now on board after “changes” were made – an assertion that could be put to the test as early as next week. 

The president voiced confidence during a meeting with members of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

“We are doing some incredible things … I am 100 percent behind this,” Trump said, before looking around the room and saying: “All of these no’s, or potential no’s, are all yes’es. Every single person sitting in this room is now a yes.”

He added, “We made certain changes.”

RSC Chairman Mark Walker, R-N.C., said in an earlier statement that he could support the bill after changes he discussed with Trump, including: work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients without dependents, and an option for states to block grant the program. 

'I am 100 percent behind this'

- President Trump

Lawmakers at the meeting included Rep. Gary Palmer, a Republican from Alabama, who voted against the plan in a House budget committee vote. One lawmaker said the changes include "work requirements and block grants." 

Several participants later confirmed to reporters that those who attended the meeting indeed are now a "yes." 

GOP leaders are hoping to push the legislation through the House next week, after the budget committee narrowly approved the Republican legislation on Thursday. 

Whether they can will soon become clear. Apparently in a deal-making mode, Trump was trying to offer assurances Friday amid concerns voiced from both the right and center, as well as from Democrats.

“We’re going to take care of people at all levels,” Trump said.

Much is at stake for Republican congressional leaders and the Trump White House. The package represents the first major piece of legislation aimed at fulfilling a top 2016 campaign promise – further, Trump has said Washington must first deal with health care before officials can tackle the next policy priority of tax reform.

On the sidelines of Trump’s Friday meeting, Health Secretary Tom Price prodded divided Republicans on Friday to "get together and collaborate."

Still, the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus -- whose members want to curb Medicaid, reduce a new tax credit and eliminate requirements on insurers – said earlier there's been little give from House leaders.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said the only change leaders might be willing to make was imposing an optional work requirement on some recipients of Medicaid, which helps finance health coverage for the poor. He said he believes they have not agreed to quickly phase out an expansion of Medicaid, another conservative demand.

"They won't have the votes unless they change it" further, Meadows said. He said that optional work requirement "doesn't move the ball more than a couple yards on a very long playing field."

Conservatives and moderate House Republicans want to pull the bill in opposing directions, GOP senators are rebelling and Republican governors say the House bill gives them almost no new flexibility and lacks sufficient resources to protect the vulnerable.

If Trump is offering changes to mollify conservatives, it’s unclear whether that risks losing votes on the other end of the spectrum.

The House bill would repeal major elements of former President Barack Obama's 2010 law. It would create new, leaner tax credits for health insurance, cap federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people and reverse tax increases on wealthy Americans used to finance Obama's statute.

One House GOP leader, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, said leaders were on track to bring the legislation to the House Rules Committee early next week. That panel's meeting -- usually a prelude to bringing legislation to the House floor -- is expected to produce amendments aimed at securing votes.

Critics say it would make health insurance more expensive for individuals, especially older adults and those with modest incomes. An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found 24 million people would drop or lose their health insurance over a decade though the bill would also reduce the deficit.

In the Senate, Susan Collins, R-Maine, told the Portland Press Herald, "This is not a bill I could support in its current form." She joins Kentucky's Rand Paul and Utah's Mike Lee in opposing the legislation. Collins' opposition leaves the bill short of the support it needs in the Senate unless it changes, since GOP leaders can only lose two votes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.