White House talks progress on long-shot health bill revival

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President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress lurched between repealing Obamacare or rewriting the US tax code as their top priority, with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday dampening White House hopes for a quick vote on healthcare legislation.

The two-hour Tuesday meeting – brokered by the Republican Study Committee, a larger group of House members that includes Freedom Caucus and Tuesday Group members – involved Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, leaders of both House factions and key committee chairmen.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, questioned after the meeting whether lawmakers should stick around during the two-week recess to finish up a deal.

Said Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho: “I think it would be a mistake to rush it”.

Two weeks after the GOP bill crashed spectacularly, the White House made an offer to conservatives to resuscitate the legislation.

In addition, the White House would let states seek an exemption to the law’s provision banning insurers from charging higher premiums for seriously ill people. Conservatives have argued that such requirements have the effect of inflating insurance costs.

Mark Meadows (R-NC), who chairs the Freedom Caucus, claimed that he was still hopeful a bill could come to the House floor.

The discrepancy in what was or was not promised became increasingly apparent throughout the day Tuesday, according to multiple sources across the spectrum of the House Republican Conference.

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., said she is encouraged because “I think two sides talking to one another gives me optimism”.

House speaker Paul Ryan holds a news conference following a House of Representatives conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, US April 4, 2017.

David McIntosh president of Club for Growth called them the “left wing” of the GOP, saying that they weren’t willing to compromise or keep their pledge to their voters to repeal Obamacare. Conservative members want to get rid of regulations imposed on insurance companies that they say drive up the cost of health care but ensure that sick people maintain health care that covers an array of procedures and preventative care.

Some fellow House Republicans have also criticized members of the conservative group, accusing them of inflexibility that led to the downfall of the bill to replace “Obamacare”, a top GOP legislative priority.

While a handful of Tuesday Group Members have balked at the White-House backed proposals to make changes to the bill, leadership said they don’t believe reports of substantial losses of moderates’ support is an accurate depiction of where the conference now stands on health-care reform.

“We’re at the concept stage right now”, said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“We can keep working this for weeks now”, Ryan said. Meadows said talks were boiling down to curbing several of Obama’s coverage requirements — a sharp contrast to the full repeal of the statute that many initially demanded.

“We were very close but not close enough, so we’ve got to get a little closer, and that means members need to talk to each other and understand each other’s concerns and find where the common ground is”, Mr. Ryan told the WisPolitics Luncheon in D.C.

“When a member sees the text for the first time in a leaked draft from Politico, therein is a problem”, he said late Monday, as the GOP worked in vain to revive the health care bill.

If major portions of Obamacare are repealed, there were discussions of creating a “backstop” so premiums do not spike for people with chronic illnesses in high-risk insurance pools.

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It appears Republicans hoping to see an Obamacare repeal vote in the House before Easter recess are out of luck.

Mike Pence

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