This week: House GOP faces make-or-break moment on ObamaCare

Republicans face a make-or-break moment this week as House leaders hope to pass legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

The House GOP leadership team is aiming for a floor vote on Thursday, but it remains uncertain if the measure can pass.

House denizens should prepare themselves for an arduous Thursday. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that “late votes are likely.”

Assuming all members show up to vote, Republicans can only afford 21 defections to secure the minimum 216 votes to ensure its passage.

With conservatives and centrists still divided over whether to vote for the measure, GOP leaders face a tall task of rounding up enough votes to fulfill a pledge they’ve campaigned on for seven years.

President Trump won support on Friday from leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) after agreeing to provide states with the options of receiving block grants for Medicaid and imposing work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

{mosads}But members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus maintained they are largely still opposed to the legislation. Some Freedom Caucus lawmakers are expected to end up voting for it, but even half of the 30-40 member caucus in opposition could help sink the bill.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Friday that making the Medicaid work requirements optional doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Then there are the GOP centrists, many of whom already face tough reelections in 2018. They’re wary of voting for legislation that, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would result in 24 million more uninsured people over the next decade.

Many centrists represent states that accepted the 2010 healthcare law’s Medicaid expansion and don’t support the legislation’s provisions to roll it back.

It’s unclear if the CBO will have a chance to weigh in on the changes agreed upon by Trump and the RSC before the full House vote. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) wouldn’t commit to waiting for an updated CBO score, saying “we’re moving forward with our bill because the American people want relief from ObamaCare.”

Lawmakers on the fence are also skeptical of taking a tough vote on legislation that doesn’t appear to be able to pass the Senate.

With a 52-seat majority Senate GOP leadership don’t appear to currently have the votes to pass the House bill. Leadership has a narrow window and is only able to lose two GOP senators and have Vice President Mike Pence break a tie.

GOP Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Susan Collins (Maine) both announced their opposition to the House bill late last week, joining Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who has been a vocal “no” for weeks.

After Nevada’s Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval announced his opposition, Heller said that he couldn’t back the House repeal and replace plan in its “current form,” according to Bloomberg.

Collins echoed him, telling the Portland Press Herald that “this is not a bill I could support in its current form. …It really misses the mark.”

With those three senators opposed to the House bill, it doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate without changes.

The three GOP senators aren’t the only potential hurdles in the upper chamber. Roughly 17 additional GOP senators have signaled they are undecided or have concerns with the House legislation, underscoring the uphill battle it is expected to face in the Senate. 

Ahead of the potential vote on Thursday, the House will consider two other accompanying healthcare reform bills. One would allow small businesses to purchase association health plans together, while the other would eliminate antitrust exemptions for health insurance providers.

Those bills are also likely dead on arrival in the Senate. Though Republicans are able to use “reconciliation” to clear the House repeal and replace legislation, any separate reform bills are expected to need 60 votes. 


Gorsuch, Comey head to Capitol Hill

A days-long hearing for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is expected to dominate the Senate next week.

The high-profile Judiciary Committee hearing will kick off on Monday when Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as Gorsuch, are scheduled to give their opening statements.

Heidi Hess, CREDO Action’s senior campaign manager, said that in addition to red-state Democrats up for reelection in 2018 she’s also watching Feinstein, hoping that as the top Dem on the Judiciary Committee she’ll help “set the tone.”

Democrats are facing a wall of pressure from progressive outside groups to a take a firm line against Gorsuch, with activists warning that any vote for Gorsuch is effectively a vote to enable Trump.

With Gorsuch expected to need 60 votes to clear the Senate, Republicans will need help from eight Democrats; both sides are closely watching a group of 10 senators up for reelection in states carried by Trump.

Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) are expected to introduce Gorsuch at his hearing. A spokeswoman for Bennet noted that home-state senators typically appear with a nominee and the Democratic senator is still undecided on Gorsuch’s nomination.

Though GOP outside groups have largely focused on 2018 Democrats, Bennet is getting some late attention from outside groups looking to win over key votes.

Concerned Veterans for America released a web ad targeting Bennet late last week and the GOP outside group America Rising Squared circulated a video of Bennet being asked by a reporter about his position on Gorsuch with the subject line “Bennet runs away when asked about Gorsuch.”

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that Bennet should use his introduction to “highlight the truth” about Gorsuch, including that he “is not a mainstream nominee.” 
“He is the most conservative nominee in modern history,” she said. “These are the facts about Judge Gorsuch’s record, and to say anything less would be greatly disappointing.”

Gorsuch’s hearing is expected to last between three to four days, according to Grassley’s office, with questioning of Trump’s nominee starting on Tuesday. After senators finish quizzing him they’ll also hear from outside legal experts.

Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing won’t be the only high-profile committee event on Monday.

The House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers are among the witnesses slated to testify in what’s sure to be a closely watched hearing.

Comey has so far avoided commenting publicly on whether the FBI is investigating Trump associates for ties to the Russian government or on Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.

He’s been making frequent appearances on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, but to brief lawmakers in closed-door, classified settings which normally chatty lawmakers have refused to divulge.

Democrats are sure to press him on any ongoing investigations and Trump’s wiretap claims when the hearing starts at 10 a.m.

The Senate will also take up two nominations during their first votes of the week on Tuesday: Charles Breyer and Danny Reeves to be members of the United States Sentencing Commission. The two nominees cleared the Judiciary Committee earlier this month by a voice vote.

Tags Barack Obama Chuck Grassley Cory Gardner Dean Heller Dianne Feinstein Michael Bennet Mike Pence Rand Paul Susan Collins
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