Ryan tamps down expectations for new ObamaCare repeal bill

Victoria Sarno Jordan

With last month’s Republican healthcare bill collapse still fresh in his mind, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday tried to tamp down expectations for a deal to repeal and replace ObamaCare and declined to say whether the House would hold a vote by the end of the week.

His remarks followed a flurry of meetings between Vice President Mike Pence, other top White House officials, the Tuesday Group of centrists and the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus.

“These are ongoing talks. We want our members to talk with each other about how we can improve the bill to get consensus. Those productive talks are happening. We’re at the concept stages right now,” Ryan told reporters after a closed-door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans.

{mosads}“So right now, we’re just at that conceptual stage about how to move forward in a way we can get everybody to 216 [votes]. … It’s premature to say where we are or what we’re on because we’re at that conceptual stage.”

On Monday night, Pence pitched an offer to the Freedom Caucus to try to bring its members on board: A new bill would grant states the power to choose to apply for waivers to repeal two ObamaCare regulations that conservatives have argued are driving up premiums.

Freedom Caucus leaders said they’re open to the idea but want to see the legislative text. White House officials are hoping to send the text to Capitol Hill as early as Tuesday night.

“We don’t have a bill text or an agreement, but these are the kinds of conversations we want — all the various caucus members, the administration, those productive kinds of conversations are happening right now,” Ryan said. “It’s all about getting the premiums down.”

The House breaks for a two-week spring recess at the end of the week, creating a sense of urgency for Republicans who don’t want to return to their districts and face constituents without a healthcare victory.

At least two Republicans — Reps. Ron DeSantis (Fla.) and Mike Kelly (Pa.) — stood up during Tuesday’s GOP conference meeting and told leadership the House should delay its recess until it passes a health bill, sources in the room said.

Emerging from the meeting, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.), the sophomore class representative to leadership, said she’d be willing to stay in D.C. longer to pass a bill.

“I would like to get this finished,” Walters told The Hill. “I understand we have to make sure the process is done correctly, but I would stay here until we get it done if that’s what leadership wanted.”

When asked if there will be a health vote by the end of the week, Ryan said he didn’t know.

“I don’t want to put some kind of artificial deadline because we’re at that conceptual stage,” Ryan said. “We have very productive conversations occurring with our members. But those are productive conversations; it doesn’t mean we have language and text that’s ready to go and the votes are lined up.”

–This report was updated at 1:00 p.m.

Tags Mike Pence Paul Ryan

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