Health bill vote set for Friday as Trump draws line in the sand

The party still needs to turn more lawmakers to pass the bill.

ByABC News
March 23, 2017, 8:39 PM

— -- The Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, a central promise of GOP leadership, is set for a showdown Friday as President Donald Trump issued an ultimatum, demanding that the House of Representatives move forward.

The American Health Care Act is being pushed full steam ahead by both Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House, despite heavy criticism from a group of moderate and conservative Republicans.

House leaders said Thursday night that the plan is to put the bill to a vote on Friday.

“For seven-and-a-half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it's collapsing and it’s failing families,” Ryan said. “And tomorrow we're proceeding.”

The statement came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a score on the amended bill, saying it would reduce the deficit by less than the original and leave just as many more people uninsured after a decade -- 24 million.

President Donald Trump's top advisers told House Republicans in a meeting on the Hill Thursday evening that the president felt the time had come for a vote. Sources in the room told ABC News that Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the rabble-rousing House Freedom Caucus, delivered President Trump's message.

"That's what POTUS wants," one attendee told ABC News.

“We have to have a vote tomorrow. He expects it to pass. But he’s moving on if for some reason it didn't," Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., told reporters after the meeting.

Senior Trump aides Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway were in the room but did not speak during the session, sources said.

On his way into the meeting, Priebus told ABC News he's "feeling good" about the situation. "Still feeling positive. A lot of work to do," he said.

While sources said White House officials didn't rule out further negotiations or changes to the bill, they made clear the time has come to put the conference on record.

"This is the only train leaving the station that is going to be repealing Obamacare," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Fox News after the meeting broke. "Tomorrow it is time to vote."

House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, who has led opposition to the plan and has been courted personally by the president, was not in attendance. He told reporters outside the meeting that he was looking to have discussions with the more moderate "Tuesday Group" later this evening.

The AHCA vote was postponed this afternoon as the party struggled to collect the votes needed to ensure its passage.

The White House said it is "confident" the bill will pass Friday. "We feel this should be done in the light of day, not in the wee hours of the night and we are confident the bill will pass in the morning," said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

President Trump had made his last-minute sales pitch to conservative House Freedom Caucus members at the White House earlier in the day. After the meeting, however, caucus members said they hadn't reached a point where they could support the AHCA in its current form.

The president and caucus members discussed options and were "trying to get creative," Meadows told ABC News.

“We are certainly trying to get to yes,” Meadows told reporters on the Hill today before the vote postponement. “But, indeed, we've made very reasonable requests and we are hopeful that those reasonable requests will be listened to and, ultimately, agreed to.”

Spicer had earlier called the meeting a “positive step” and said the White House was “very, very pleased with the direction” of the negotiations.

He also dismissed characterizations of the meeting as attempts to strike a deal.

“I think some of them stood up and said, ‘Mr. President, we're with you.’ I think a lot of them said, ‘We're going to go back and think about it.’ The meeting didn't conclude by saying, ‘Do we have a deal?’ That’s not why we have it,” Spicer said. “This was a discussion that the president continues to have.”

Some House Republicans have grown frustrated with the demands of their colleagues in the Freedom Caucus.

"Two groups that don't represent even the majority of the Republican conference have been given every opportunity to have multiple conversations with the president and the leadership," Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, said. "At some point, you've got to say, 'That's it.' And we're at that point."

At least 32 Republicans had said they would oppose the bill, according to ABC News’ latest whip count. The GOP needs 216 votes for a simple majority to pass the bill in the House, so they can afford to lose 21 votes for passage.

Related Topics