GOP lawmakers told they’re inching closer to ObamaCare repeal deal

GOP lawmakers told they’re inching closer to ObamaCare repeal deal
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GOP lawmakers were told on a conference-wide call Saturday that they are getting closer to an agreement between centrists and conservatives that would allow legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare to pass the House. 

No deal is in place yet, however, though Republicans speaking on the call said there will be no vote until it's certain the votes are there to pass the legislation. 

“The votes will drive the timing of this,” one Republican lawmaker on the call told The Hill.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism Anti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments MORE (R-Wis.) told House Republicans that while healthcare is still a priority, the spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown will be the "primary focus" of the coming week, according to a GOP source on the call.

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A timeline to pass a healthcare bill this week always seemed optimistic, but White House aides had been pressing for the possibility in the hopes of giving Trump a significant legislative achievement before next Saturday – his 100th day in office.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the talks, no questions were taken on the call. That’s a sign that leaders did not want additional information to leak out. 

Lawmakers also face a Friday deadline to keep the government open, which adds to the complexity of doing anything on healthcare.

Republicans are almost certain to need Democratic votes to move a government-funding bill through the House, and making a second effort to repeal ObamaCare on a party-line vote would be unlikely to make the shutdown talks easier.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Freylinghusen (R-N.Y.) briefed members on the spending bill, while House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) briefed on healthcare.

The healthcare deal is being negotiated between centrist Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

The agreement centers on giving states the ability to have waivers to repeal a ObamaCare regulation preventing people with pre-existing conditions from being charged more.

MacArthur told The Hill on Saturday that the language of the proposal is still being finalized.

“It's almost achieving what I want, but a few areas need to be tightened up," MacArthur said, citing concerns about ensuring minimum insurance coverage requirements are protected.

MacArthur said he's been in contact with other Tuesday Group members over the two-week recess, but acknowledged he doesn't know yet if the proposal will help the GOP's healthcare bill get enough votes to pass.

“I don't have a whip count,” MacArthur said, acknowledging some centrists still have concerns with the draft proposal that became public this week. At the same time, he said, “so far I'm optimistic that it might help to bridge the divide.”

The House doesn't return until Tuesday evening and will have to pass legislation to keep the government open by Friday. That leaves little room for Republicans to try to whip up enough votes to revive the bill since GOP leaders canceled a vote on it last month.

An earlier bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare was pulled from a scheduled vote because of defections from both conservative and centrist GOP lawmakers.

Every House Democrat is expected to vote against the measure.

Updated: 7:17 p.m.