Top Budget Dem predicts 'close call' in ObamaCare repeal vote

Top Budget Dem predicts 'close call' in ObamaCare repeal vote
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee said Wednesday that panel Republicans are grumbling about the GOP’s proposal to overhaul ObamaCare, predicting a close vote when the committee meets Thursday to mark up the legislation. 

Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthHouse committee advances budget resolution Dems launch ‘no confidence’ resolution against Trump Overnight Energy: Court rejects greens’ challenge to EPA pesticide decision MORE (D-Ky.) stopped short of saying the bill will fail, noting that there’s enormous pressure on the Republicans to get it to the floor after vowing for seven years to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature domestic achievement. 

But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) made life much tougher on the Republicans Monday, Yarmuth said, when it released an analysis of the American Health Care Act that found 24 million fewer people will have health insurance in 2026 under the GOP bill. 

The CBO estimate has caused some moderate Republicans to announce their opposition to the replacement bill in its current form. 

While the legislation has already passed through the Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce committees with unanimous support from Republicans, Thursday’s Budget vote will be the first since the CBO score was issued. 

Yarmuth said he’s hearing Republicans express misgivings ahead of the vote.

“I think it’s going to be a close call,” Yarmuth said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “There are a number of Republicans who I’ve spoken to who have very serious problems with the legislation and understand the predicament that … they find themselves in.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll vote against it,” Yarmuth emphasized. “I think they’ll be under a lot of pressure to move the bill out of Budget and off to the Rules Committee.”

But Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane BlackDiane BlackSenate spending plan boosts House moderates Koch Industries backs lawmakers who want budget to bar border tax Overnight Finance: GOP offers measure to repeal arbitration rule | Feds fine Exxon M for Russian sanctions violations | Senate panel sticks with 2017 funding levels for budget | Trump tax nominee advances | Trump unveils first reg agenda MORE (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday she’s not worried. 

"I am confident this bill is going to come out of Budget,” Black said in an interview with MSNBC.

Because of the reconciliation rules attached to the legislation, the failure of the Budget panel to pass the bill would mean “it’s dead in its current form,” Yarmuth said. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP divided over care for transgender troops Want bipartisan health reform? Make the debate honest again Ex-CBO directors defend against GOP attacks on ObamaCare analysis MORE (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders are struggling to thread the needle as they try to dismantle the central elements of the Democrats’ 2010 healthcare overhaul. Aside from the centrist Republicans who have cold feet following release of the CBO score, conservatives are hammering the legislation as a lighter version of ObamaCare that would create a new entitlement program, in the form of tax credits, without reining in rising healthcare costs. 

Several of those conservative Republicans are on the Budget Committee, and Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulSenate healthcare bill appears headed for failure Talk of Trump pardons reverberates on Sunday shows Paul says president likely has authority to pardon himself MORE (R-Ky.), a vociferous opponent of the House replacement bill, is pressing them to oppose the legislation during Thursday’s markup. 

One — Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) — is already vowing to do so. 

With 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats on the Budget panel, GOP leaders can afford only three defections to keep this version of the bill alive. 

Failure at any level would be a stark embarrassment for President Trump and GOP leaders in Congress, who have hammered ObamaCare since its inception and vowed to repeal it if voters granted them unified government — a gift they received in November. 

Democratic leaders who have suffered politically for championing ObamaCare are only too happy to highlight the Republicans’ struggles now that the tides have turned. 

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, accused the “mean-spirited” Republicans of “putting lives at risk” by pushing forward with their replacement plan, rather than simply fixing the problems with ObamaCare. 

“If their bill fails, it's basically akin to saying, ‘We didn't have anything better; our bill sucked,’” she said.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the caucus, chimed in. 

“So, now I can't tell my kids not to say suck anymore,” he joked.