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House votes to begin debate on healthcare bill; six Republicans defect

The House voted to begin debate on the GOP’s healthcare plan Friday, paving the way for a cliffhanger vote in the afternoon. 

Lawmakers voted largely along party lines, 230-194, to adopt parameters for floor debate.

Six Republicans voted against the rule, an unusually high number. Lawmakers typically do not break ranks on procedural votes, which are viewed as a referendum on how leadership is managing the floor. 

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Among the Republicans who voted against the rule were Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashWatchdog files Hatch Act complaint against Sanders for picture with Kanye in MAGA hat Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Walter Jones (N.C.). All three voted Thursday night against invoking what is known as "martial law" to speed the legislation to the floor.

The other three Republican no-votes were from Reps. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksTrump immigration measures struggle in the courts Latino groups intervene in Alabama census lawsuit Alabama GOP congressman preps possible Senate bid against Doug Jones MORE (Ala.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHouse conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh allegations Hillicon Valley: State officials share tech privacy concerns with Sessions | Senator says election security bill won't pass before midterms | Instagram co-founders leave Facebook | Google chief to meet GOP lawmakers over bias claims Trump: 'Fake news media’ didn’t cover when Obama said '57 states' in 2008 MORE (Texas) and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Texas coal plant to shut down | Macron rejects trade deals with climate pact outsiders | Vote on park funding bills to miss deadline Judge restores protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears Endorsement of Dem challenger by GOP lawmaker's siblings adds 'greater weight' to Arizona voters, says progressive activist MORE (Ariz.). 

Lawmakers typically stick with their party on the rules votes even if they plan to vote against the underlying legislation.

The rule stipulates that floor debate on the healthcare legislation will last four hours, with time equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

That sets up a likely vote around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.

Republicans are moving at a rapid pace to vote on the healthcare measure after President Trump delivered an ultimatum late Thursday night amid a sagging whip count.

The Hill’s whip list shows around 30 Republicans planning to vote against the bill. That’s more than the maximum of 22 defections GOP leaders can afford and have the bill still pass.

GOP leaders and the White House are hoping that the prospect of the bill failing will flip votes into the yes column as the day progresses.

The House voted late Thursday night to waive a requirement that lawmakers wait a day before considering a measure produced out of the House Rules Committee, which determines how bills are considered on the floor.

The waiver allows the House to take up anything approved out of the Rules Committee within hours. It’s a move typically reserved for tight deadlines, like avoiding a government shutdown, rather than sweeping legislation like the GOP plan to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system.

Four Republicans voted against fast-tracking the process Thursday night, all of whom plan to vote against the underlying healthcare plan:  Amash, Massie, Jones and Rep. David Young (Iowa).

The Rules Committee approved a measure early Friday morning inserting changes to the legislation, along with the rules for floor debate.  

Among other provisions, the changes would eliminate ObamaCare’s minimum requirements for insurance coverage in an attempt to win over conservatives. The essential health benefits include things like maternity care, outpatient services and hospitalization.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not had time to issue a new analysis of how the GOP’s legislation would affect the healthcare system and almost certainly won’t be able to do so before the House vote on Friday. 

The CBO did issue an updated analysis on Thursday that found earlier changes would to the bill still result in premium increases and 24 million more uninsured people in the next decade. That analysis found the bill would provide less deficit reduction, mostly because ObamaCare’s taxes would be repealed immediately.

Updated at 11:48 a.m.