By Molly K. Hooper and Bob Cusack - 04/24/13 07:00 PM EDT
House conservatives are split on whether to back a bill that would change President Obama's healthcare law.
It is unclear if Republican leaders have the votes to pass Rep. Joe Pitts's (R-Pa.) bill, which would shift ObamaCare money to boost high-risk insurance pools. If the bill goes to a roll call vote on the floor, it is expected to be very close.
Most Democrats will reject the measure that has drawn a veto threat from the Obama administration.
During a Wednesday afternoon meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) touted the legislation. But there were plenty of GOP lawmakers who are reluctant to fix ObamaCare in any way.
Members in the room say the RSC is about evenly divided on the legislation. If all Democrats reject the bill, House GOP leaders can only afford 15 defections if every member votes.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he asked leadership a lot of questions that weren't answered at the committee meeting. King is undecided.
Pitts left the committee meeting fully prepared to head to the floor later in the afternoon to manage debate on his measure.
Asked if leaders had the votes for passage, Pitts acknowledged that he didn’t know, but that he was “willing to roll the dice."
“As far as I know, we're voting this afternoon,” Pitts told The Hill.
Moments later, the RSC chairman told The Hill that he didn’t know if, in fact, the bill would come up for a vote.
“I don't know ... I'm waiting for the votes to be called,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an interview with The Hill.
Though Scalise supported the measure in the Energy and Commerce Committee, he wouldn’t commit to doing so on the House floor unless a pending amendment is adopted.
Pitts offered the amendment at the Rules Committee late Tuesday night to allay the concerns of GOP lawmakers that the money would go to the federal pool instead of the state-run high-risk pools.
Still, Pitts conceded “there are some people who still are hesitant because they don’t want to fix ObamaCare.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) – a declared “undecided” – left the RSC meeting with a more pessimistic outlook on the measure.
Based on the number of concerns that he heard voiced by his fellow RSC members, Brooks suggested it seems unlikely that GOP leaders would be able to pass the bill without the support of some Democrats.
“You've got some very influential conservative voices coming out in opposition, and you only have to flake off 10 percent of the Republicans ... aligned with a Democratic block vote against whatever's on the floor gets killed,” Brooks said.
Brooks noted that 40-50 GOP lawmakers participated in the committee lunchtime meeting; half of those members voiced opposition to the measure.
Given those numbers, Brooks said, the bill could be doomed.
King, however, said he thinks GOP leaders have the votes, noting he hasn't heard panic in how they have whipped it.
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), a former RSC chairman, is against the bill while Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a committee chairman, declined to reveal how he plans to vote.
The Club for Growth is strongly opposed to the Pitts measure while other right-leaning groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, have backed it.