Politics

GOP Health Care Bill Picks up ‘A Few’ Moderate Supporters

Vote on Friday possible if more support comes together

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives for the meeting with President Donald Trump and the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

By ERIN MERSHON, JOE WILLIAMS and LINDSEY McPHERSON 
CQ Roll Call

House leadership secured the support of a few moderate holdouts for their health care bill during a late-night meeting Wednesday.

Those moderate’s votes would bring the bill closer to passage, but by how much remains unclear. If support comes together quickly, there could be a vote as soon as Friday.

House Republican leaders had huddled with a group of mostly moderate lawmakers in a closed-door meeting late Wednesday night in an effort to find an agreement on the GOP plan to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the two-hour meeting convinced a few more members to back the bill.

“We’re walking through the amendment for everybody, explaining where it is,” he said Wednesday night. “We got a few more to yes tonight — yeah, a couple moderates, so that was good.”

The idea of a Friday vote on the bill if the votes could be secured was floated as a possibility, members said before the meeting. McCarthy said after that there were no plans yet for a vote Friday but he didn't explicitly rule it out.

Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said it has “yet to be determined” whether the House would vote on the health care bill Friday.

Asked if was clear yet whether the votes were there to pass it, the Washington Republican said, “We’re just working on it. Working on the language, posting language.”

Shortly after the meeting, the Rules Committee did post text of the amendment Republicans are considering making to the bill. The amendment, largely crafted by Reps. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., would let states get a waiver from some of the health law’s more onerous insurance requirements.

Earlier Wednesday the amendment won the support of a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus, but moderates were mostly noncommittal on their positions, saying they needed time to digest the amendment and study its impact, especially on people with pre-existing conditions.

McMorris Rodgers declined to characterize whether she walked away with a positive feeling on the moderates’ positions after the late-night leadership meeting, saying only, “It just takes some time to talk to the members, for them to see the language.”

Many of the members themselves declined to comment on the negotiations as they exited the approximately two-hour meeting. Leadership stayed in the room for another half hour after the members left.

The whip team requested a 9 p.m. Wednesday meeting with moderate members, according to Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa and several other lawmakers who attended. Those present included Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.; Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio; and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas. Among the other participants were Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.; Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.; Tom Reed, R-N.Y.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; and Fred Upton, R-Mich.

“I don't know [if we will vote Friday] but I doubt it,” Walden said as he entered the meeting. “If they get the votes I wouldn't rule anything out, but it would be pretty hard with everything else.”

Others said leaders were hoping for quick action.

“It sounds kind of like they're going to do that,” said Rep. Ted Yoho, when asked if the House would vote Friday on the party's health bill , as he left the meeting early.

Yoho, a more conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the few hardline conservatives present, said he remains undecided, and that the meeting was centered on “just discussion, where do you stand, what are your concerns,” and not on arm-twisting for votes. “Paul [Ryan] doesn't do that,” he said.

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