News & Politics

White House pressures GOP leaders on Obamacare showdown next week

President Donald Trump wants House Republicans to vote next week on a new version of a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, but the bill still lacks legislative text, and lawmakers won't return to Washington from recess until next Tuesday. | Getty
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A frantic and impatient White House is pressuring House GOP leaders for another showdown vote on repealing Obamacare next week so it can notch a legislative win before President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.

But while the outlines of a possible deal are starting to come together, it’s far from clear that House Republican leaders have found the sweet spot to pass their embattled alternative health plan.

The White House does not schedule House floor votes. And while some senior administration officials suggested Thursday that a vote will occur next week, multiple House GOP sources told POLITICO that is unlikely.

Indeed, the vote is not currently on the calendar. Nor do Republican insiders think it’s even possible, as Congress will reconvene Tuesday after a two-week Easter recess. That would leave them with one day to whip votes – an unlikely time frame for such a heavy legislative lift.

“The question is whether it can get 216 votes in the House, and the answer isn’t clear at this time,” a senior GOP aide said. “There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on.”

The conflicting narratives suggest top administration officials and House Republican leaders are either miscommunicating – or, more likely, that White House sources are squeezing Speaker Paul Ryan and his team, telling them to move quickly.

Notably, the same senior White House officials who suggested a vote would occur next week also said the text of a new deal will likely be circulated Friday “or by the weekend.” The claim perplexed some GOP insiders who don’t expect legislative text for a few days, at the earliest.

The back-and-forth highlights just how impatient Trump is growing with Congress. Administration officials are feeling inordinate pressure to advance the legislation out of the House, fearing that failure to repeal the health care law will dominate coverage of the administration’s first 100 days, which end next week, officials say.

Trump on Thursday predicted that health care legislation would pass “next week or shortly thereafter.” During a joint news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the president also took issue with the characterization that Republicans gave up on health care after they pulled the original House bill.

He reminded reporters that Obamacare was roughly a year-and-half-long effort, while he said he’s only had about two months to negotiate a better deal.

But multiple House GOP insiders say the White House doesn’t understand how Congress works, and just because Trump officials say there will be a vote next week doesn’t make it so. GOP leaders cannot whip votes until legislative text is actually written, and it will be tough to get a good sense of where the conference stands until members return to town on Tuesday.

GOP leaders have their work cut out for them in the meantime. While the White House believes it is “close” to having the 216 votes needed to get a bill out of the House, one senior official said, others on Capitol Hill aren’t nearly as confident.

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