House GOP Pushes for Obamacare Overhaul

Republicans still do not have the votes needed to pass their health care overhaul bill through the House, as leadership and the Trump administration are working to flip moderates wary of some of the legislation's proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told his conference at a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he hopes to schedule a vote on the GOP plan, called the American Health Care Act, Wednesday or Thursday before leaving town for a week-long recess.

"This is who we are," Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday morning after the meeting, about the health care vote. "This will define us."

On Monday, top aides to President Donald Trump projected confidence that they had managed to secure at least 216 votes they need to ensure the bill's passage in the House, with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and economic adviser Gary Cohn telling CBS in separate interviews Monday that they believed they had the necessary votes locked up.

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Speaking with reporters Tuesday morning, the Republican leadership was more circumspect.

"It's better," Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said of the bill's prospects. It's unlikely the leadership will officially schedule the bill until they have commitments from enough members to pass it.

According to whip counts conducted by five different news organizations, 19 to 21 Republicans are publicly against the bill as of Tuesday morning, and more than a dozen others are leaning no or are officially undecided.

Republicans can lose up to 22 votes and still clear the majority threshold.

The White House is pouring the pressure on undecided members – mostly from the conference's moderate wing – dispatching Vice President Mike Pence to twist arms Monday and again Tuesday.

Pence will meet with Senate Republicans at their weekly lunch Tuesday, then with members of the House later afternoon.

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At a rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend, Trump specifically named two of the Keystone State's GOP lawmakers – Reps. Tom Marino and Mike Kelly – saying he would be "so angry" at them if "we don't get that damn thing passed quickly."

Both Marino and Kelly support the bill, although their fellow Pennsylvania Republicans Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan are among those who have publicly opposed it.

In significant part, moderates' opposition comes from an amendment to the bill which allows states to apply for waivers to the requirements that insurance companies provide minimum standards of coverage, called essential health benefits, as well as from some community rating rules, which require companies to set premium rates at the same level for people within certain demographic categories.

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Critics of the plan say that, in tandem, the two changes, while not officially repealing the Obamacare provision that prohibits denial of coverage of patients with pre-existing conditions, in practice would make health insurance unaffordable to all but the wealthiest consumers.

The president threw a new wrench into the process this week, vowing that the Republicans' plan would guarantee coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions at the same level as it is under the current law.

"It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare," he said in an interview with Bloomberg News Monday.

Fact-checkers say that, in its current form, the Republicans' bill falls short of that standard.

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House GOP Pushes for Obamacare Overhaul