Trump twists arms on Obamacare repeal before House vote

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 22 2017 02:06 AM

US House Speaker Paul Ryan has scheduled a vote for Thursday on a measure to repeal and replace Barack Obama's signature health care law, which Republicans have vowed to overturn. Joshua Roberts, Reuters file

President Donald Trump went to Congress Tuesday to win support for a bill to dismantle Obamacare, warning Republican lawmakers that they risk losing their majority in the US legislature next year if they fail to pass the measure.

House Speaker Paul Ryan — one of the bill's architects and chief champions — has scheduled a vote for Thursday on a measure to repeal and replace Barack Obama's signature health care law, which Republicans have vowed to overturn.

Congressional Republicans, who in the years since the passage of Obama's Affordable Care Act have held numerous unsuccessful repeal votes, finally have in Trump a president who has vowed to sign an overhaul law.

But Republicans, deeply divided as to what a replacement health care plan should look like, are struggling to garner enough support to pass the current repeal-and-replace measure in either chamber.

With passage of the measure in peril, Trump made a rare visit to Capitol Hill to rally the 237 Republican lawmakers in the House to set aside their qualms and pass the measure.

"President Trump was here to do what he does best, and that is to close the deal," said Ryan, in a reference to Trump's reputation as a businessman who drives a hard bargain.

"He is all in, and we are all in to end this Obamacare nightmare," said Ryan, pointing out that repealing Obamacare was a promise made by numerous Republicans during the November presidential and congressional elections.

"We made a promise that we would repeal and replace this disastrous law and we are going to keep our word," Ryan said. 

One House Republican, Chris Collins, said Trump didn't mince words in delivering the message to Republicans that the control of Congress was in the balance.

"The message was, if we don't get this done, we're going to lose the House and the Senate next year. He was that blunt," the New York Republican lawmaker said, referring to the 2018 mid-term elections. 

"'We deliver on this, then we do tax reform, then we pick up 10 Senate seats next year'," Collins said, recounting Trump's words.

Some Republicans have balked at their own party's replacement plan, which they complain is too similar to Obamacare, merely reducing health coverage subsidies with refundable tax credits.

Some in the party also have called for changes to a provision in the bill that rolls back the expansion of Medicaid, the health coverage program for the poor and the disabled.

Party leaders made tweaks to the bill late Monday, which they hope will allay concerns enough to allow the bill to squeak by in Thursday's vote. 

If it passes, the Senate is expected to take up the measure in early April.