White House, GOP leaders at odds over plans for ACA vote

(Bloomberg) – The Trump White House and congressional Republicans were at odds Thursday over whether to try for another vote on replacing the Affordable Care Act next week, indicating that neither side had a clear strategy for moving on one of the president’s central campaign promises.

A White House aide said President Donald Trump’s administration expects the House to vote soon after lawmakers return from recess on Tuesday and draft language could be circulated as soon as Thursday night. Success would give the president a legislative victory to boast about before his 100th day in office April 29.

But a senior House Republican aide said that revised language for a bill hasn’t been agreed on and there’s no text yet for lawmakers to review. There’s no target date for a vote, whether next week or at any future time, the aide said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said a day earlier while on a trip to London that lawmakers were negotiating “finishing touches.”

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act was a major Trump campaign promise and a longtime goal of House Republicans. But a vote next week may risk another big political embarrassment like the one in March when Trump and Ryan abruptly scrapped a vote for lack of Republican support.

“The political ramifications of trying to pass a bill and failing is just one piece of this,” said Joshua Huder, a congressional expert at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University. “Members may be desperate to give their constituents something in return for having the majority for four months.”

“That pressure to try may be more important than the consequences of falling short again,” he said.

House Republicans have been away from Washington the past two weeks and, for some, town halls held in their districts have drawn anger from constituents over the failed health care proposal, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would result in 24 million losing or dropping health insurance coverage over a decade. Some Republicans have distanced themselves from that plan.

House Republicans plan a conference call Saturday with Ryan and other leaders to discuss the health-care bill as well as spending legislation to keep the government operating when current funding expires at the end of the day April 28.

Some proposed changes to the ACA repeal bill were circulating among members, including an amendment co-sponsored by Representative Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey Republican and co-chairman of a group of House moderates. His amendment is being depicted as a compromise with conservatives in an effort to draw enough support for passage.

The amendment, reported earlier by Huffington Post, 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 other conditions.

Bloomberg News