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Finger Pointing On Capitol Hill As GOP Assesses Healthcare Bill Loss

 

By ERICA WERNER
FILE - In this March 16, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump sits with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional Republicans on Monday, March 27, 2017, pointed fingers and assigned blame after their epic failure on health care and a weekend digesting the outcome.© (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) FILE – In this March 16, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump sits with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional Republicans on Monday, March 27, 2017, pointed fingers and…

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Monday pointed fingers and assigned blame after their epic failure on health care and a weekend digesting the outcome.

The divisions, coming on top of House Republicans’ inability to deliver on a priority they all share — repealing and replacing “Obamacare” — raised serious questions about whether they will be able to achieve their other legislative goals for the year or even pass must-do spending legislation in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight April 28.

The hard-right House Freedom Caucus, which withheld a bloc of votes from the White House-backed health care legislation, came in for most of the criticism from fellow lawmakers.

“Clearly moving forward, we’re going to have to look at where a governing majority comes from. That’s going to require some answers from the Freedom Caucus,” said GOP Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

Like a number of other more moderate-leaning Republicans, Costello said he would have voted “no” on the bill in the end, partly because it kept moving to the right as House leaders and the White House made concessions to the Freedom Caucus without ever succeeding in locking in their support. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan decided to pull the bill from the House floor on Friday after it became clear it was bound to fail.

“They’re going to have to know when it’s time to get to the ‘yes,'” Costello said.

Freedom Caucus members bridled at the criticism, insisting they had done Trump and fellow Republicans a favor by blocking a piece of legislation that polled poorly and embraced the basic structures of Obamacare without significantly reducing premiums.

The Freedom Caucus spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said over Twitter that blaming the group ignored the opposition coming from moderate-leaning Republicans. And Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a Freedom Caucus leader, accused GOP leaders of a rushed and secretive process in promoting their legislation, which would have eliminated the Obamacare mandate for people to carry insurance or face fines, and shrunk a Medicaid expansion, but relied on tax credits similar to those in President Barack Obama’s law to help consumers purchase insurance.

“They rolled it out after it was hidden away. When they rolled it out, they said it’s a binary choice, take it or leave it,” Jordan said on MSNBC. “Normally when you have hearings on a piece of legislation that impacts this much of our overall economy, you would bring in some witnesses and hear from some witnesses about what’s going to happen if this legislation actually becomes law. We had none of that.”

The divisions extended to whether Republicans should immediately try again to make good on seven years of promises to repeal and replace the health care law or cut their losses for now and move on to overhauling the tax code, a priority Trump seems more excited about. Senate Republicans, who had hoped to act next on the health legislation despite divisions of their own, voiced displeasure with the failure by their House counterparts.

“It’s disappointing. We’ve got to fulfill our promises,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. “Hopefully the temperatures have gone down just a little bit and we can get to an outcome. We don’t have the option of inaction. We own it and we’ve got to fix it.”

For Republicans who want to show voters they can govern after gaining control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, the outcome on health care suggests the opposite. The one bright spot for the GOP is Trump’s nomination of conservative appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which will be considered on the Senate floor the week of April 3.

The disunity comes as Congress is fast approaching a deadline to pass government-wide spending legislation or face a shutdown. Given that lawmakers have a two-week recess in the middle of April, there is little time to negotiate an agreement. In the past such spending deadlines have been occasions for brinkmanship, including in 2013 when conservatives forced a 16-day partial government shutdown in a failed attempt to defund Obamacare.

The tentative game plan this time around to wrap up more than $1 trillion in unfinished spending bills is to draft a bipartisan omnibus measure that would fund the government through Sept. 30. Its outlines remain fuzzy and subject to change according to the whims of GOP leaders, but the working thesis is to craft legislation that could pass by a bipartisan vote without a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Conservatives, however, may be disappointed that they wouldn’t score many wins in such legislation, even though Republicans control the entire government. They may insist on more money to build Trump’s border wall or even press to “defund” Planned Parenthood. And Democrats could abandon the effort if Republicans press too hard for the border wall or lard in too much extra money for the Pentagon, raising the specter of a shutdown showdown not far away.              (AP)

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Trump Blames Democrats For House GOP Pulling Healthcare Bill

 

Caroline Linton

President Trump said Friday that “both parties can do better” after the vote on the GOP health care bill was abruptly canceled in the House after it seemed likely it did not have enough support to pass.

“Perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today,” Mr. Trump said in a news conference in the Oval Office.

The vote on the American Health Care Act, originally scheduled Thursday but then pushed to Friday after failing to gain conservative support, was canceled after it appeared that Republicans had failed to get enough support from within their own party for it to pass. House Speaker Paul Ryan admitted Friday that the GOP “came up short.”

Mr. Trump and Ryan already pushed to blaming Democrats, with Mr. Trump saying “we had no Democrat support” and Ryan saying that “moving from opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains.”

President Donald Trump, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, meets with members of the media regarding the health care overhaul bill, Friday, March 24, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.: trump-health-care-vote-2017-3-24.jpg                  © AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais trump-health-care-vote-2017-3-24.jpg

“I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare,” Mr. Trump said. “They own it.  Hundred percent own it.  And this is not a Republican healthcare, this is not anything but a Democrat healthcare and they have Obamacare for a little while longer until it ceases to exist, which it will at some point in the near future.”

Ryan said that Obamacare will “remain the law of the land” until it is replaced.

Mr. Trump insisted that he never said  “repeal and replace within 64 days” on the campaign trail.

“I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” Mr. Trump said. “It is exploding right now.”

Mr. Trump said that in this scenario, perhaps then there will bipartisan support for a “truly great health care bill.”

AP

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GOP Healthcare Bill: Trump, Ryan Confer At The White House Amind Opposition

Mike DeBonis, Sean Sullivan, Ed O’Keefe

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) headed to the White House midday to brief President Trump on an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system, amid mounting evidence that enough House Republican would spurn their pitches and send the bill to defeat.In one stunning defection, Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) announced at midday that the health care bill is “currently unacceptable” and that changes made late Thursday to placate conservatives “raise serious coverage and cost issues.”

“We need to get this right for all Americans,” he said.

Other members who had raised concerns about the bill — both conservative and moderate — said the late changes had done nothing to change their minds.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a Freedom Caucus member, was one of six Republicans who voted against a procedural resolution bringing the bill to the floor.

“You know what? I came here to do health care right,” said Gosar, a dentist. “This is one chance we that can get one-sixth of our GDP done right. It starts with here.”

Still, the sales pitches from Trump and Ryan appeared to be having some effect. At least three lawmakers who had previously pledged to vote against the bill indicated that they had changed their minds.

At the heart of the argument: Keeping the Affordable Care Act is a worse outcome than passing a potentially flawed replacement.

“You want to score a touchdown, but sometimes, on the fourth down, you kick a field goal,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the longest-serving member of Congress in the Freedom Caucus. “The choice is yes or no. I’m not going to vote no and keep Obamacare. That’d be a stupid damn vote.”

Earlier Friday, a panel that sets rules for House floor debate approved the revised legislation, sending it to the full House for several hours of debate. Trump, meanwhile, took to Twitter to try to close the deal.

“After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.

Asked by a reporter Friday morning what he would do if the bill fails, Trump shrugged and said: “We’ll see what happens.”

Trump also said he didn’t feel the process had been rushed and that Ryan should remain as speaker if the bill fails.

Trump briefly answered shouted questions at the White House after an announcement of a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a revived project that the president touted as creating jobs.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) walks to a meeting Thursday with the GOP about the American Health Care Act trying to drum up support along with Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s director of the Office fo Management and Budget.© Katherine Frey/The Washington Post House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) walks to a meeting Thursday with the GOP about the American Health Care Act trying to drum up support along with Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s director of the…

 

In a last-ditch attempt to force a vote, Trump dispatched White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to the U.S. Capitol on Thursday night to tell rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he was done negotiating .

It was a high-risk gamble for Trump and Ryan, who have invested significant political capital trying to pass legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled negotiator capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims.

Leaders were focused especially on winning over members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, most of whom have so far refused to back the bill. Asked if GOP leaders had secured the votes early Friday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) chuckled at a reporter: “You guys ask me the same question every day. You know I don’t talk about Fight Club.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who chairs the caucus, said late Thursday that he was leaning against the legislation. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday morning.

And Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a caucus member who had been a hard “no” earlier in the week, told NPR on Friday morning that he could potentially vote yes.

“If I think that premiums are going to come down enough . . . I could be a yes,” Harris said, citing a letter Trump sent Thursday to Freedom Caucus members outlining administrative steps he could take to address that issue. “But my yardstick is, will premiums come down enough under these actions?”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a moderate who had expressed qualms as recently as Tuesday, when he was singled out by Trump inside a private meeting of House Republicans, said he had all but decided to vote for the bill.

“I’m not one they should worry about,” he said.

King said Trump and GOP leaders had a powerful closing argument, making members choose between the Republican bill and the ACA.

“What’s the alternative?” he said. “If it’s this or stick with Obamacare, it’s a pretty heavy decision to make if you’re that opposed to Obamacare.”

But Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), one of Trump’s most ardent congressional supporters, said he remained opposed to the legislation because it made more political sense to keep current law than to start rewriting it.

“A no vote means we save Donald Trump from a Democratic majority in 2019,” Gohmert said. “If this passes, then Obamacare stays.”

Of his colleagues in the Freedom Caucus, Gohmert said: “Most of them are gonna vote no, and will save the Trump presidency from this lie that they have been handed.”

In another tweet on Friday, Trump homed in on the Freedom Caucus, saying, “The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!”

With 237 House Republicans, party leaders can afford only 21 or 22 defections, depending on how many Democrats are present on Friday. If the measure fails, it would be a defeat for Trump in his first effort to help pass major legislation. An unsuccessful vote could also jeopardize other items on his wish list, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure spending.

No matter what happens in the House, the ultimate fate of the legislation hinges on the Senate. There are at least a dozen skeptics of the bill among Senate Republicans, who maintain a slim 52-to-48 advantage, and many of them want to maintain some of the current law’s more generous spending components.

Defeat of the legislation would mean that Obamacare — something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years — would remain in place.

Republicans convened a Rules Committee hearing at the crack of dawn Friday, where they sought to sign off on the final changes they made to the bill the previous day. In a snug room near the House chamber, the meeting quickly turned into a tense partisan clash, as Democrats expressed their disgust with the measure and Republicans sought to defend their legislation.

“You never intended for there to be a health plan of consequence for this nation,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), raising his voice as he spoke.

He added: “What we will have done is helped rich people. And we will not have helped poor people.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the bill’s architects, forcefully rejected Hastings’s claim during testimony before the rules panel, saying he was “offended” by the remark. He tried tempering the tone of his exchange with Hastings, who wouldn’t oblige.

“I’m mad as hell about what you all are doing!” the Democrat exclaimed.

Later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the GOP bill would levy an “age tax” and “veterans tax” in order to lower taxes on the richest Americans.

“It’s in their DNA,” she told reporters. “They can’t help themselves.”

President Donald Trump pauses in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Friday, March 24, 2017, during an announcement on the approval of a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing the way for the $8 billion project. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci): Late Thursday, President Trump issued an ultimatum to lawmakers opposing the health care overhaul.        © The Associated Press Late Thursday, President Trump issued an ultimatum to                             lawmakers opposing the health care overhaul.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) added that some Republicans were likely “ashamed” by a process that had been defined by “backroom deals,” turning an old Republican attack back onto the majority.

“For what? To keep a seven-year old campaign promise?” said Crowley. “So Trump doesn’t send a mean tweet about you? That’s not leadership; that’s politics.”

On Thursday night, a rowdy group of Republicans burst out of their closed-door meeting like explorers on a quest for glory. “Burn the ships,” one Republican shouted to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), invoking the command that Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, gave his men upon landing in Mexico in 1519.

The message was clear, to the GOP leaders now and the Spaniards in 1519, there was no turning back.

“Only way to do it,” Scalise told a packed elevator of lawmakers.

After the meeting, and during an unrelated late-night vote, Ryan got down on a knee to plead with Rep. Don Young, an 83-year-old from Alaska who is the longest-serving Republican in Congress and remains undecided.

When the speaker finished with Young, he spent about 10 minutes in an animated discussion with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), one of the bill’s most outspoken critics. At one point, the speaker took his own arms and held them up, his hands at face level, then slowly lowered them to his waist — presumably trying to demonstrate his belief that the bill will lower costs.

Ryan had intended to bring up his plan for a vote Thursday, but that plan unraveled after Freedom Caucus members rejected Trump’s offer to strip a key set of mandates from the nation’s current health-care law. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon trooped up to Ryan’s office to make the case personally, warning recalcitrant conservatives that the only alternative would be to accept the ACA as the law of the land.

By evening, leaders adopted the proposed change conservatives had rebuffed earlier, eliminating the law’s “essential benefits” that insurers must offer under the ACA in an effort to reduce premium costs. Those benefits include covering mental-health treatment, wellness visits, and maternity and newborn care, and states would have the option of adding them back next year.

They also added one sweetener for moderates, a six-year delay in repealing a 0.9 percent additional Medicare tax on high-income Americans who earn above $200,000 if filing individually, or $250,000 if married and filing jointly. By keeping the tax in place, GOP leaders could provide an additional $15 billion to the states to help cover treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as maternity and infant care.

Meanwhile, a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday evening showed that changes House leaders made to the bill Monday do not alter a projection that 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 under the bill. In addition, the updated bill would cut the deficit by $150 billion over the next decade — nearly $200 billion less than the earlier version of the legislation.

AP

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Breitbart News Posts Audio of Ryan Saying He Won’t Defend Trump Again

 

Cyra Master
Ryan: 'Can't answer' how many will lose health coverage under GOP plan© Provided by The Hill Ryan: ‘Can’t answer’ how many will lose health coverage under GOP plan  

The far-right news website Breitbart posted Monday night audio from an October conference call in which House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow Republicans he’d never defend Donald Trump again.

The call between Ryan and members of the House GOP conference came shortly after “Access Hollywood” tapes of Trump making lewd comments about women became public, rocking the GOP ticket and prompting Republicans to call for Trump leave the ticket.

“I am not going to defend Donald Trump-not now, not in the future,” Ryan says in the audio obtained by Breitbart News.

The October call was for House Republican members, Breitbart said, and it’s unclear who was on the call and whether the participants knew they were being recorded.

“Look, you guys know I have real concerns with our nominee,” Ryan said on the call. “… This is going to be a turbulent month. Many of you on this call are facing tough reelections. Some of you are not. But with respect to Donald Trump, I would encourage you to do what you think is best and do what you feel you need to do. Personally, you need to decide what’s best for you. And you all know what’s best for you where you are.”

Key Trump adviser Stephen Bannon is the former head of Breitbart, which has feuded with Ryan in the past.

(The Hill)

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