GOP faces risky decision on ObamaCare vote

GOP faces risky decision on ObamaCare vote
© Greg Nash

It’s full steam ahead on ObamaCare for House GOP leaders, who insist they are going forward with Thursday’s scheduled vote on their replacement legislation regardless of threats from conservatives.

Asked in a Fox News interview if the Thursday vote would be delayed if the GOP doesn't have the votes, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) said, "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals.

“We’re not losing votes, we’re adding votes, and we feel like we’re getting really, really close.”

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The House Freedom Caucus insists it has enough votes to stop the American Health Care Act in its tracks, but GOP leadership aides say the bill is headed to the floor regardless.

It’s a risky move that could result in a seven-year GOP campaign pledge melting down in public in real time if the conservatives hold to their opposition.

A Freedom Caucus spokeswoman said Wednesday that more than 25 members of the conservative group still plan to vote against the bill after a meeting earlier in the day at the White House.

That’s three more than the maximum number of defections GOP leaders can afford, since Democrats plan to unanimously oppose the legislation.

Centrists and other conservatives outside the Freedom Caucus are also threatening to vote against the bill.

The Hill’s whip list includes 22 Republicans who say they are no votes on the bill. Another seven members are leaning or likely to vote against the bill, while more than 15 are uncertain.

GOP leaders will need to win over many of those members to win the vote.

Republicans acknowledge a floor meltdown on legislation meant to fulfill one of their key campaign promises would be a major embarrassment for the party.

But they are also implicitly warning the Republicans voting against the bill would be injuring their own president.

“I think it would be very damaging. I think it’s a big blow to the president, who’s 100 percent behind this bill,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House GOP whip team. “It’d be a terrific setback to our leadership.

“At the end, it’s a big blow to the Republican conference. Because you know, if it comes down, members bring it down, we vote with Nancy Pelosi to keep ObamaCare as opposed to this bill.”

Trump during a trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday warned Republicans they could lose their reelection races by not backing the ObamaCare replacement bill.

He has also suggested that his agenda will be on the line on Wednesday, signaling it will be more difficult to do tax reform if the bill fails.

Freedom Caucus members steadfast in their opposition also conceded it wouldn’t be a good look for the House GOP. But they insisted GOP leaders should take any setback as a sign they need to dramatically change the bill.

“My background is in the sport of wrestling. Sometimes you learn a lot more from the setbacks than you learn from the wins. So there’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘OK, we learned something from this. Let’s get back together, let’s do it right,’” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), another Freedom Caucus member who was one of the first lawmakers to endorse Trump, brushed aside the importance of passing the bill by Thursday.

“Everyone has this arbitrary deadline it has to be done tomorrow. If it isn’t done tomorrow, we’re not going to quit reforming healthcare,” DesJarlais said.

If the legislation failed on the floor, DesJarlais conceded, “The optics wouldn’t be great, but it doesn’t matter because what’s more important is that we get it done right, and the optics would look much better in the future.”

House GOP leaders and the White House are trying to make the argument that it’s a vote that requires a “team effort” to fulfill a campaign promise.

Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit Ex-Sen. Jones rips Mo Brooks over 'irony' remark on Texas Democrats getting COVID-19 Justice in legal knot in Mo Brooks, Trump case MORE (R-Ala.) described the pitch from White House officials to Freedom Caucus members thusly: “We really need you to help. It’s a part of the team effort. This is a part of sequence of events.”

But that still didn’t sway Brooks, who has frequently bucked GOP leaders. “Those kind of things, when really, what we need is a healthcare bill that’s going to lower premiums for the people of America,” he said, still adamant he’d vote against the legislation.

There were some signs of progress by House GOP leaders.

Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden wants Congress to pass abortion bill, pushes for Mideast cease-fire Ex-GOP Rep. Lou Barletta launches bid for Pennsylvania governor Republicans vie for Trump's mantle in Pa. Senate primary MORE (R-Pa.), another early Trump endorser, said he’d vote for it after getting a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that the House would vote on his bill to ensure undocumented immigrants in the U.S. don’t have access to healthcare tax credits.

The White House also said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) would vote for the bill.

It’s possible the vote on Thursday could be held open for a lengthy amount of time to corral enough votes for passage.

In 2003, GOP leaders brought the Medicare Part D bill to the floor despite not having enough votes to pass it. At first, the vote was failing. But the vote was held open for hours so GOP leaders could convince enough of their members to switch sides.

Eventually, the vote closed at nearly 6 a.m. once it had just enough support to pass.

At the same time, Republicans say after railing against ObamaCare since 2010, it’s time they voted on legislation to replace it.

“I’d rather have the vote to see where we’re at,” Cole said. “I think there comes a time to fish and cut bait.”