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Trump Demands Risky Health Care Vote   03/24 08:49

   The House steered toward a climactic vote Friday on the Republican health 
care overhaul, plunging ahead despite deep uncertainty over whether they had 
the votes to prevail in what loomed as a monumental gamble for President Donald 
Trump and his GOP allies in Congress.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House steered toward a climactic vote Friday on the 
Republican health care overhaul, plunging ahead despite deep uncertainty over 
whether they had the votes to prevail in what loomed as a monumental gamble for 
President Donald Trump and his GOP allies in Congress.

   Debate began after White House officials told fractious GOP lawmakers at a 
Thursday night meeting at the Capitol that Trump was finished negotiating with 
GOP holdouts and would move on to the rest of his agenda, win or lose.

   "We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace 
this broken law because it's collapsing and it's failing families. And tomorrow 
we're proceeding," House Speaker Paul Ryan tersely told reporters after 
scheduling what loomed as the most momentous vote to date for Trump and for the 
Wisconsin Republican's own speakership.

   The vote stood as an early crossroads in Trump's young presidency. Victory 
would clear an initial but crucial hurdle toward achieving the GOP's lodestar 
quest to repeal former President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul. 
Defeat could weaken his political potency by adding a legislative failure to a 
resume already saddled with inquiries into his campaign's Russia connections 
and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against his predecessor.

   In an embarrassing setback earlier Thursday, leaders abruptly postponed the 
vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the 
measure. They'd hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh 
anniversary of Obama's enactment of his landmark health care statute that 
Republicans have vowed ever since to annul.

   There was no evidence that leaders' decision to charge ahead was a feint and 
that they'd delay again if necessary. Instead, they seemed to be calculating 
that at crunch time, enough dissidents would decide against sabotaging the 
bill, Trump's young presidency and the House GOP leadership's ability to set 
the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat.

   "The president has said he wants the vote tomorrow," White House budget 
chief Mick Mulvaney told the lawmakers, according to Rep. Chris Collins, 
R-N.Y., a Trump ally. "If for any reason it goes down, we're just going to move 
forward with additional parts of his agenda. This is our moment in time."

   Even if they prevail, Republicans face an uphill climb in the Senate, where 
conservatives and moderates are also threatening to sink it.

   The GOP bill eliminates the Obama statute's unpopular fines on those who do 
not obtain coverage and the often generous subsidies for those who purchase 
insurance.

   Instead, consumers would face a 30 percent premium penalty if they let 
coverage lapse. Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income. The 
bill would also end Obama's Medicaid expansion and trim future federal 
financing for the federal-state program and let states impose work requirements 
on some of its 70 million beneficiaries.

   In a bid to coax support from conservatives, House leaders proposed a fresh 
amendment --- to be voted on Friday --- repealing Obama's requirement that 
insurers cover 10 specified services like maternity and mental health care. 
Conservatives have demanded the removal of those and other conditions the law 
imposes on insurers, arguing they drive premiums skyward.

   Many moderates are opposed because they say the GOP bill would leave many 
voters uninsured. Medical associations, consumer groups and hospitals are 
opposed or voicing misgivings, and some Republican governors say the bill cuts 
Medicaid too deeply and would leave many low-income people uncovered.

   Republicans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic 
opposition. A tally by The Associated Press found at least 32 "no" votes, but 
the figure was subject to fluctuation amid frantic GOP lobbying.

   Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said 
he remained a "no" but didn't answer when asked whether the group still had 
enough votes to kill the legislation. He'd long said caucus opposition alone 
would defeat it without changes.

   One member of that group, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., responded indirectly 
when asked if his opposition had changed.

   "Everybody asked us to take a moment and reflect. Well, we'll reflect," he 
said.

   Other foes said they'd not flipped. These included moderate Reps. Charlie 
Dent of Pennsylvania, Dan Donovan of New York and Leonard Lance of New Jersey, 
plus conservative Walter Jones of North Carolina, who had his own words of 
warning.

   "He's there for three-and-a-half more years," Jones said of Trump. "He 
better be careful. He's got a lot of issues coming."

   The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said changes Republican leaders 
had proposed before Thursday to win votes had cut the legislation's deficit 
reduction by more than half, to $150 billion over the next decade. But it would 
still result in 24 million more uninsured people in a decade.

   Obama's law increased coverage through subsidized private insurance for 
people who don't have access to workplace plans, and a state option to expand 
Medicaid for low-income residents. More than 20 million people gained coverage 
since the law was passed in 2010.


(KA)

 
 
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