“This is our moment in time, and the president is insisting on a vote tomorrow one way or another,” Mulvaney told them, according to Collins.
The decision follows days of frenzied negotiations at the Capitol and at the White House, as Trump summoned one group of wavering lawmakers after another for round-the-clock talks. The bill lawmakers are considering on Friday will include an amendment that represents the offer that members of the Freedom Caucus rejected as insufficient on Thursday afternoon. It eliminates Obamacare’s requirement that insurance plans cover maternity care, addiction treatment, hospitalization, and several other “essential health benefits.” Conservatives argue that scrapping the mandate would help lower premiums. But they were pushing the White House to agree to repeal other provisions that constitute the most popular elements of the health law, including the ban on lifetime coverage caps and insurers’ discriminating based on preexisting conditions. Republican leaders rejected that request, however, because they were sure it would cost them dozens of other votes that would sink the bill’s chances.
As it stands, the American Health Care Act is unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form. But Republican leaders need to get it out of the House first.
So Trump is making his risky bet and gambling that rank-and-file Republicans will stick by him in a high-stakes vote. Exiting the meeting, several members predicted the party would fall in line. As Representative Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin freshman, put it afterward: “Who wants to be the butt-head that keeps Obamacare going?”
Inside the meeting, supporters of the bill stood up, one by one, to rally their colleagues. Representative Brian Mast of Florida, a first-term Republican who lost both his legs fighting in Afghanistan, brought members to their feet with a call for the party to unify and accept a compromise. “I’ve never been in a battle where we’ve only had to fire one shot. I’ve never been in a battle with a perfect plan,” he told them, according to Representative Matt Gaetz, another Floridian. Representative Tom McClintock of California read passages from Ben Franklin’s speeches to the Constitutional Convention.
Gaetz cast Friday’s vote as an existential moment both for the Republican majority in the House and for Trump’s presidency. If it fails, he told reporters, “we’ll have the opportunity to watch a unified Democratic caucus impeach Donald Trump in two years when we lose the majority.”
Republicans were clearly short of votes heading into Thursday night’s meeting. The only question was by how many. Party leaders had postponed a vote they had long planned to hold on the Obamacare anniversary, unable to win over conservatives without losing too many moderate members who feared the bill’s impact on insurance coverage, Medicaid, and premium rates. Trump’s ultimatum may have come too late: About a dozen Republicans representing swing districts or Democratic states had already publicly announced their opposition and will have a hard time flipping based on so baldly political an appeal.