Conservative RSC says it's close to backing ObamaCare repeal bill

Conservative RSC says it's close to backing ObamaCare repeal bill
© Greg Nash

The conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) says it is very close to supporting the House GOP's healthcare plan if changes are made to its Medicaid provisions. 

Vice President Pence met with members of the Republican Study Committee Wednesday and indicated that the White House is open to accepting some changes to the bill. 

The 172-member RSC wants to freeze the expansion of Medicaid earlier, in 2018, and put in place work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults.

ADVERTISEMENT

But GOP leadership has pushed back on moving up the freeze, set for 2020 in the current bill, worried it will further alienate moderates. Some lawmakers leaving the meeting said they expect smaller changes will be made.

RSC Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) sounded a positive note after the meeting, however.

“We were overwhelmingly blown away by the expectation that the vice president just laid out for us,” Walker said. 

“He says ‘I come here today to let you know that the RSC and their concerns have been heard,' so we are excited about that.”

The RSC wants the changes made either in a manager’s amendment currently being worked on by GOP leadership, or later when the health plan reaches the Rules Committee before a floor vote.

“I’m as hopeful as I’ve ever been in the entire process,” Walker said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Ultimately, we were told today that we should be hopeful as far as having some of this incorporated in this particular bill.”

GOP leaders are opposed to speeding up the Medicaid phaseout, worried that it will turn off centrist Republicans. However, they may be willing to go along with a work requirement.

"Changing the date of the Medicaid roll back would be unacceptable," said one RSC member who backs the legislation. "It loses at least as many votes as it might add."

The Trump administration has also indicated support for a work requirement, which could be a more feasible change to the bill.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price wrote in a letter to governors Tuesday that they would work with states that want to alter their Medicaid programs with work requirements and other changes.

Exiting the meeting, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said he believed Trump could muscle the current bill through the House if he really wanted to but predicted minor changes would be made before the final vote.

“There may some openness to do a little bit of tweaking to at least come part way to meet the concerns of others,” Walberg, an Energy and Commerce Committee member, told The Hill. “Those changes could happen in a manager’s amendment or an amendment on the floor.”

The vice president told RSC members that Trump would be making a healthcare announcement at his rally in Nashville, Tenn., but Pence declined to elaborate.

“While some of you are tweeting it out, I’m not going to go any further,” Pence teased lawmakers.

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), a member of the House GOP whip team, said the bill is still expected to hit the floor next week despite questions about whether it can pass. The House Budget Committee plans to mark up the bill Thursday morning.

"I think most Republicans ran on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. This is our opportunity. I don’t think our conference is going to squander this opportunity," Hudson said.

Hudson downplayed the potential changes to the legislation before members consider it on the floor.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I don’t think you’re going to see dramatic changes," he said. 

While the RSC may come around on the GOP health plan, the conservative House Freedom Caucus still says it won't support it unless there are substantial changes. 

They oppose the bill for its refundable tax credits, which they call a new entitlement, and because it leaves in place many ObamaCare provisions, including one that requires insurers cover those with preexisting conditions.

Pence is expected to meet with moderate Republicans Wednesday night, when Medicaid will likely be a topic of discussion.