WASHINGTON: US lawmakers and the White House on Friday braced for a hectic coming week in Washington, with Republicans readying new legislation to repeal Obamacare as Donald Trump seeks a victory to cap his 100th day as president.
After an embarrassing health care defeat last month, Trump has suddenly heaped pressure on Republican leadership by saying he expects a vote on a revived version of the bill “next week or shortly thereafter.”
“We’re doing very well on health care. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “It’s evolving.”
Conservative and moderate Republicans were working with the White House on outlines of a deal. But with no legislative text to sell, it remained unclear whether the plan would receive majority backing in the House of Representatives, which resumes Tuesday after a two-week recess.
Scheduling a vote next week would mark sharp changes to legislative expectations in Washington, where the administration and lawmakers are up against a hard deadline of funding federal operations by next Friday, or face a government shutdown.
Asked whether he would seek to prioritize a vote on health care or a government funding bill next week, Trump eagerly replied: “I want to get both.”
In the days following the collapse of Trump’s initial attempt to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care reforms, he signaled his intention to turn next to his pledged tax overhaul.
On Friday the president hinted that an announcement on tax reform — potentially including major tax cuts — could also come within the 100-day mark, which falls on April 29.
“We’ll be having a big announcement Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” Trump said.
That would make next week an especially busy time in Washington.
Controversial new draft
As the president seeks more victories, the White House appears keen to take a stab at swiftly passing an Obamacare repeal — something candidate Trump had repeatedly pledged to do within his first 100 days as president.
For years, Republicans have promised to overturn Obama’s reform, describing it as government overreach.
Several conservatives wanted to see the bill lift burdensome and costly regulations that require insurance companies to keep a standard, minimum package of benefits — such as maternity care and hospitalization.
The new draft, a copy of which was posted online by Politico, controversially would allow states to opt out of including the benefits. They could also opt out of the so-called community rating provision, which requires insurers to charge the same for people regardless of their health status.
The revision is aimed at drawing enough support from Republican moderates and core conservatives.
The latest changes were reportedly drawn up by Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the Tuesday Group of moderates, with input from Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus which spearheaded opposition to the party’s initial bill.
Some Republicans expressed skepticism Friday, including Congressman Rodney Davis of the Tuesday Group who said he has had discussions with the White House on how to proceed.
“I’m not going to be for a plan that’s going to allow for preexisting conditions to not be covered,” he told CNN.
‘Get it done right’
Any deal would have to play the tricky game of winning over both conservatives and moderates in the Republican Party to surpass the 50 percent threshold of 216 votes in the House of Representatives, seeing that Democrats will almost certainly unite against the plan.
As for whether reaching that threshold is possible, “the answer isn’t clear at this time,” a senior Republican aide said.
The plan would also need the support of nearly every Republican in the Senate to become law.
Despite stressing that Trump wanted to move quickly, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the focus was to “get it done right,” and not necessarily within the first 100 days.
Even Trump appeared to downplay the need for speed.
“No particular rush,” Trump said Friday. “Next week doesn’t matter.”