(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump warned House Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that many of them could lose their seats in the 2018 elections if they don’t pass H.R. 1628, the Affordable Care Act overhaul bill.
The president’s warning came a day after GOP leaders made several changes to their measure aimed at wooing reluctant Republicans, including limits to Medicaid enrollment and an accelerated phaseout of some taxes.
“Support it!” Trump told lawmakers, according to Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, who said he still opposes the measure. He said Trump’s remarks contained “nothing in detail, except politically it’s the right thing to do.”
Asked on his way into a closed-door GOP meeting whether they had the votes, Trump said, “I think so.”
But House conservatives said late Monday that they didn’t get the changes they were looking for and could block passage.
“Currently there are not enough votes to pass the legislation,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said Monday night after a raucous caucus meeting. The group, which has opposed earlier versions, didn’t take an official position on the changes, but a spokeswoman said a whip count by the group showed it could defeat the bill.
And conservative Republican Mo Brooks of Alabama said he wasn’t impressed by Trump’s election threat.
“I think if we do vote for this we will lose the majority,” Brooks said after the meeting.
The alterations are being proposed to help add Republican support for the bill, which is set to come up for a vote on the House floor Thursday, and House leaders sounded an optimistic note about the chance for passage. The changes would allow states to require people covered by Medicaid to work and block U.S. funds for any new efforts to expand the health program for the poor.
While it softens some measures that would make health coverage more expensive for older people, H.R. 1628 remains a threat to hospitals and some insurers, which would see fewer paying patients if it passed.
‘One step closer’
House leaders praised the changes Monday night, with Speaker Paul Ryan saying Republicans were “one step closer” to repealing Obamacare.
“I want to thank the White House and members from all parts of our conference who have helped make this the strongest legislation it can be,” he said in a statement late Monday.
One indication that Ryan and his lieutenants are gaining important ground came late Monday when Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey and several other moderates said they would back the bill.
MacArthur co-chairs a group of House centrists known as the “Tuesday Group.” He was joined in his announcement by Reps. Tom McClintock of California, Martha McSally of Arizona and Robert Aderholt of Alabama. In a statement, the group pointed to adjustments to boost the bill’s tax credits for lower-income adults as key in helping to address their concerns.
Not all House moderates had yet joined in support by Tuesday morning, including MacArthur’s Tuesday Group co-chairman — Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. But securing centrist backing is key for GOP vote counters, who have little wiggle room given ongoing opposition from some conservatives.
But members had different opinions on whether the changes would be enough to get it through.
“I think there are obviously some small tweaks that are good tweaks but there’s no substantial changes in the manager’s amendment that would make anybody be more compelled to vote for this,” Meadows said.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said the H.R. 1628 vote will be a “defining moment for the Freedom Caucus.” (Photo: Amash)
“This is a defining moment for the Freedom Caucus,” he added. “I don’t think there is a more critical vote for the Freedom Caucus than this particular one.”
Another Freedom Caucus member, Justin Amash of Michigan, said he’s confident the group will largely hold together to block the bill after leaders ignored their demands.