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White House Still Pressing to Hold ACA Change Vote This Week

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(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump’s administration continues to push for a vote this week in the House to change the Affordable Care Act, which the president said on Sunday is “in serious trouble.”

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the Senate Budget Committee sent language on the health bill to the House on Saturday night, as negotiations between Congress and the White House continue.

(Related: Trump Confident of No Federal Shutdown as Agencies Prepare)

House members return from their Easter recess on Tuesday and are expected to concentrate on a must-pass bill to keep the federal government funded beyond April 28. Still, Mulvaney said the administration sees no “structural reason” why the House couldn’t also vote on a health care plan this week.

“Health care may happen this week, it may not,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We’re hopeful it will.”

Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the health care vote will more likely come in early May.

“The odds of that are pretty good,” Brat said in an interview on Friday with a Richmond radio station. Also suggesting that timeline was Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that finding a way to vote in the coming week would be “awfully tough.”

Working on Compromises

Brat said if compromises that conservatives and moderates have worked out with the administration materialize when the bill is written, “that gets a lot of us toward a ‘yes,’ along with a couple of other items we’ve been negotiating.”

House Republican leaders and the White House haven’t announced a target date for a vote. But Speaker Paul Ryan said on April 19 that lawmakers were already negotiating “finishing touches.”

Reigniting talk that a vote is imminent risks another embarrassment such as the one in March, when Trump and Ryan abruptly scrapped a vote on an earlier version of a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare because a number of Republicans didn’t support the measure.

But Brat said the divisions between party conservatives such as himself and moderates, which undid the previous effort, are being addressed in a compromise that Vice President Mike Pence has helped broker.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Some of those proposed changes were circulating this week among members in summary form, including an amendment co-sponsored by Rep. Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey Republican and co-chairman of a group of House moderates.

The amendment would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions in states that get a waiver. To obtain the waiver, states would have to provide sick people priced out of commercial insurance access to a so-called “high-risk pool” run by the federal government, or establish their own, and satisfy certain other conditions.

Brat, asked in the interview whether the latest bill would actually repeal Obamacare — a Trump campaign promise and a long-time goal of congressional Republicans — bluntly said “No.”

“This is not repealing Obamacare,” he said. “This maintains the rough structure of Obamacare.”

No Longer Symbolic

He said that it turns out after more than 50 symbolic votes in the House to undo Obamacare over the years, there isn’t enough support to actually do it, now that it can become a reality with a Republican president to go along with the party’s control of the House and Senate.

Brat said he doubts House leaders would take up the health bill immediately because Congress must deal with passing a spending measure to keep government funded beyond Friday, when a current spending mechanism expires.

The White House has told Democrats that for every dollar they allow in the spending measure to go toward the planned wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the administration would agree to equal funds to continue Obamacare subsidies that help reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income consumers.

“ObamaCare is in serious trouble,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “The Dems need big money to keep it going — otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.”

— Read Government Shutdown Is Logical But Not Likely on ThinkAdvisor.