Defying Trump, Freedom Caucus insists it'll oppose GOP ObamaCare replacement

The conservative House Freedom Caucus said it remains opposed to the House GOP's ObamaCare replacement legislation Wednesday despite pressure from President Trump.
 
Speaking to reporters outside a Freedom Caucus meeting after a White House meeting, the group called on leaders to start over on ObamaCare, saying the replacement bill does not have the votes to pass Thursday.
 
"The opposition is still strong," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the group.
 
"They don't have the votes to pass this tomorrow. We believe that they need to start over and do a bill that actually reduces premiums."
 
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A spokesman for the Freedom Caucus separately tweeted that more than 25 members remained opposed to the bill. House GOP leaders can only afford about 22 defections, given expected absences from the vote. 
 
 
Asked about Meadows's claim that there are not enough votes, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanVulnerable Republicans include several up-and-coming GOP leaders Trump ally suspends reelection campaign Congress should prohibit members from serving on company boards MORE (R-Wis) said on Fox News, "I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that."
 
“There’s a claim that there’s 24 votes against it, we’re getting a lot of Freedom Caucus members to support this bill,” Ryan said. “We’ve been adding Freedom Caucus votes to this bill all week.”
 
“We’re adding votes by the day,” Ryan added. “We’re not losing votes, we’re adding votes, and we feel like we’re getting really, really close.” 
 
GOP leaders have insisted they will go forward with the vote on Thursday, essentially daring members to oppose a bill backed by Trump. 
 
That sets up a dramatic day in the House that could go a long way in determining the future of Trump's presidency. 
 
Many Freedom Caucus members represent districts won handily by Trump in the presidential election, and he could direct his anger at them it they kill the legislation in Thursday's vote.
 
That puts a ton of pressure on the members — and on Trump and House GOP leaders. 
 
A loss on ObamaCare would be a huge legislative defeat for Trump, while a victory would be a boon for his young presidency.
 
Asked if he would postpone the vote Thursday if there are not enough votes, Ryan told Fox, "I’m not going to get into hypotheticals."
 
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) maintained "opposition is strong" within the Freedom Caucus. "The smartest thing they can do is postpone this vote," he said.
 
Earlier in the day, several Freedom Caucus members went to the White House and met with Vice President Pence and other administration officials, who tried to sway their votes. The meeting took place one day after Trump visited Capitol Hill to talk to the entire House Republican Conference. During that session, he singled out Meadows for attention. 
 
Trump separately met at the White House on Wednesday with a group of 18 GOP lawmakers from various ideological positions, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and a few conservatives with objections to the measure, like Reps. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoTrump endorses Ted Yoho ahead of Florida primaries 10 dark horse candidates for Speaker of the House House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor MORE (R-Fla.) and Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). 

But a number of conservative lawmakers said they are still opposed even after the most recent meetings. 

The Freedom Caucus's main objection is that the current GOP bill does not repeal ObamaCare's "essential health benefits," which mandate which health services an insurance plan must cover. Conservatives say repeal of those rules is necessary to drive down premiums. 
 
House GOP leaders counter, though, that those rules cannot be repealed under Senate rules governing the fast-track process of reconciliation. The bill has been brought up under those rules so that it cannot be filibustered by Democrats in the Senate — which should make it easier to get the legislation to Trump's desk.
 
 
 
"We are holding strong for substantive changes," he said.
 
"Not a single one of us moved" after the meeting, Brooks added. 
 
Yoho emerged from the meeting saying he was still a no vote. But he sounded a note of optimism.

"I truly believe we will come together and get something done properly," Yoho said. "The one thing that would get me really close to this would be getting rid of essential health benefits"
 
Cristina Marcos and Scott Wong contributed.  
 
Updated: 3:20 p.m.