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Week ahead: Congress heads home without ObamaCare deal

Week ahead: Congress heads home without ObamaCare deal
© Greg Nash

Congress will recess for two weeks without taking any action on healthcare, putting Republicans in a difficult position as they head home to face tough questions about why they haven't repealed ObamaCare.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned lawmakers they could be called back early from recess to vote on repeal if a deal was reached.

"Should we be prepared to advance our bill through the House in the coming two weeks, we will advise Members immediately and give you sufficient time to return to Washington," McCarthy wrote in a memo.

But that is unlikely.

Divisions in the Republican House are too deep to find consensus on repeal, with conservatives wanting to scrap several of ObamaCare's insurer regulations and moderates wanting to keep them.

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It looked like there might be some headway this week when Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' MORE met with leaders of the three main Republican factions late on Tuesday night to try to flesh out a compromise on a repeal bill.

Pence had offered to remove three ObamaCare regulations: guaranteed issue, which requires insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions; community rating, which bans insures from charging sick people more for coverage; and essential health benefits, which mandates which services insurers must cover.

Centrists, however, pushed back on those changes and lawmakers emerged from that meeting two hours later without any apparent progress toward a deal, other than an agreement on risk sharing.

But the White House has been pushing for progress on healthcare and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE (R-Wis.) and McCarthy met the president late Wednesday night.

That meeting led to a decision to tack on an amendment to the repeal bill, in an effort to show progress on reform before going home for two weeks.

The House Rules Committee met Thursday to add language to help subsidize people with high health costs.

The amendment would dole out $15 billion to insurers over nine years to help cover the costs of sick, expensive patients. But it is unlikely to do anything to move more votes toward yes and with many other contentious issues unresolved.

For now, Republican lawmakers are heading home with few legislative accomplishments to tout.

The Senate is scheduled to be out until Monday, April 24, with House lawmakers returning a day later, on Tuesday.

When they do return, they'll have a busy docket with funding legislation for the government expiring on April 28. That immediate task will likely push any healthcare work back further.