House conservatives say they have the votes to defeat ObamaCare replacement

House conservatives say they have the votes to defeat ObamaCare replacement
© Greg Nash

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said Monday night that they are confident they have enough votes to defeat the GOP’s ObamaCare replacement bill unless substantial changes are made. 

Their statements signal the coming showdown with House GOP leaders ahead of Thursday's floor vote, given that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said he has been told that Monday night's changes to the bill will be the last. 

“I'm confident that we still have enough concerns that a vote of 216 votes in the House would not happen today,” Meadows told reporters as he left a Monday night meeting of the Freedom Caucus, referring to the number of House votes needed to pass the measure.

He said he has done a whip count of his members, and while he would not share the exact total, he indicated it is more than the 22 votes needed to sink the measure. 

Meadows noted that some changes will be released Monday night in the form of a "manager's amendment" but said his understanding is that the changes would not be enough to bring the Freedom Caucus on board.

Asked if conservatives are prepared to vote the bill down on the floor on Thursday, Meadows expressed hope that some solution could still be worked out. And he said he does not expect the Freedom Caucus to vote on a formal position against the bill. 

“I think that cooler heads will prevail and we will find a way to get to yes with some reasonable amendments that are negotiated in good faith,” Meadows said. 

President Trump is coming to the House Republican Conference meeting on Tuesday and is expected to urge passage of the measure. But Freedom Caucus lawmakers say pressure will not get to them and promised they would be able to resist the president himself. 

“They don’t have the votes to pass it,” Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP leaders agree to consider Dec. 30 spending bill House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (R-Mich.) stated flatly after the meeting, noting, “I’ve been yelled at before."

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Monday night after the meeting that he is leaning against the measure, describing himself as a “friendly lean no.”

The Freedom Caucus’s main objection is that the measure does not do enough to lower premiums. The conservatives want to repeal ObamaCare’s insurance regulations, such as the essential health benefits that mandate which health services an insurance plan must cover. They say these regulations drive up premium costs. 

House leaders, though, have raised concerns that repeal of those measures would not be allowed under Senate rules. Meadows also says his understanding is that some leaders are concerned that it would take too long to get a new Congressional Budget Office analysis of those changes. 

Asked what happens if the bill fails in the vote on Thursday, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said: "I think it actually makes it much easier for us to pass a better bill." 

The Freedom Caucus was joined in its meeting by Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah), who all also have strong objections to the House bill. 

Those three would be enough to sink the bill in the Senate if they voted no.