House Republican leaders’ inability to get an Affordable Care Act change bill to the House floor today could increase the likelihood that the ACA will survive in its current form, or that Democrats and Republicans will have to work together to develop a bipartisan replacement.
House leaders had planned to get some version of H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act bill, up on the floor for a vote today.
Instead, lengthy negotiations between House leaders and members of the Freedom Caucus, a House Republican group, pushed Republican leaders to put the House in recess. At press time, House members who wanted to vote had stay close to the House, because resumption of proceedings was “subject to the call of the chair,” and could happen at any time from press time until Monday.
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President Donald Trump said he wants the House to vote on the bill Friday. Politico is reporting that he is open to leaving the ACA in place, at least for now.
Before the House recessed, members debated House Resolution 221, a measure that would let House leaders suspend the normal bill consideration rules using a provision that critics jokingly describe as “martial law.” The martial law rule, which has nothing to do with military rule of the country, lets House leaders unveil a bill between now and Monday and have members vote on the bill the same day, rather than giving members a few days to review the bill.
Members of the House Rules Committee voted 9 to 3 to approve the martial law resolution late Wednesday.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said at the House Rules meeting on Wednesday, which was streamed live on the web, that Republican leaders had asked for the resolution to get time to “buy more votes.”
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, the House Rules chairman, looked frustrated. He told Democratic members he wished he could give them more information about what was going on, but that he had been too busy to do more than monitor “the Republican conference maneuvers happening via press.”
House Rules has posted video recordings of the proceedings here.
Sessions defend the martial law rule on the House floor this morning. He said the process will produce a good bill.
“We will own it, and we will be proud of it,” Sessions said.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., blasted the rushed process.
“Are Republicans seriously contemplating making a change of this massive without hearing?” McGovern asked. “With no chance to read the bill?”
The House chair ruled that members had approved the martial law rule by voice vote, but the chair then approved a motion for a recorded vote. The House went into recess before it could hold a recorded vote on the martial law resolution.
[UPDATE: As of 8:15 p.m., House members were back in business and voting on the martial law resolution.]
Later in the day, the Congressional Budget Office posted an analysis of a version of H.R. 1628 that would include key proposed amendments. The CBO analysts ruled that the revised bill would narrow the federal deficit by just $150 billion over 10 years, rather than by $337 billion, under the original public version of H.R. 1628.
Many lawmakers, including Republicans, have said that they are unhappy with the CBO prediction that the original public version of H.R. 1628 could increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million by 2026, mainly by decreasing Medicaid enrollment.
In the new analysis, which is available here, the CBO says the proposed H.R. 1628 revision and the earlier version would leave roughly the same number of people without health coverage.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said Wednesday during House Rules meeting that he’d like to work on bipartisan ACA changes. (Photo: Polis)