House Healthcare Bill Still in Trouble

Michael McAuliff and Matt Fuller report for Huffington Post that it doesn’t look like Speaker Paul Ryan has the votes he needs from his own caucus to pass Trump’s health care bill on Thursday. It certainly looks like the head of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, feels confident that he and his colleagues will stick together enough to either compel further concessions or to torpedo the bill entirely.

Of course, the White House and the House leadership are signaling confidence, but that seems to be partly a negotiating tactic and partly for show. It does appear like they gained about seven or eight votes out of New York State by inserting “a last-minute special provision in their health care bill that would shift Medicaid costs from New York’s counties to its state government.” But, making moves reminiscent of the Cornhusker Kickback that was so heavily criticized during the passage of the Affordable Care Act could lose Ryan as many votes as it gains.

Maybe that’s why Ryan embarrassed himself so profoundly after Trump met with his caucus today:

Speaker Paul D. Ryan was upbeat. “The president just came here and knocked the ball out of the park,” Mr. Ryan said. “He knocked the cover off the ball.”

Does this sound like he knocked the cover off the ball?

More troubling for Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), however, was that they do not appear to have won over Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

“They do not have the votes right now,” Meadows said, adding that he doubted his colleagues would get on board if leaders delay the vote.

“I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their vote,” Meadows said. “I’m not giving numbers. There’s still more than enough to make sure that we need to continue the discussion.”

Meadows had earlier indicated that the Freedom Caucus won’t vote as a bloc, so individual members will peel off. But I don’t think Ryan comparing the president to Babe Ruth is going to materially help his position. If Trump were Babe Ruth, then the following would have worked:

Trump used both charm and admonishment as he made his case, reassuring skittish members that they would gain seats in Congress if the bill passed — and singling out Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, in front of colleagues.

“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’” Trump said, according to several Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”

But it didn’t work, as Meadows’s subsequent comments make clear.

The official line, for now, is that no further changes to the House bill will be allowed and that the Senate will have to make any fixes. I don’t know if that’s going to comfort any doubters, as it’s not likely that the Senate could pass anything more to the liking of the Freedom Caucus doubters than what exists now. And I don’t think the moderates are keen to vote for a bill that would strip over 20 million people of their health care coverage if it is just going to die in the Senate.

Maybe it’s time to start the blame game for why this bill couldn’t pass. There must be some way to blame it on the Democrats, right? Or maybe Trump will pull a rabbit out of a hat. He’s supposed to be such a great negotiator, after all.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.