House leaders called moderates to Speaker Paul Ryan’s office Wednesday night to discuss a change to the health care bill meant to appeal to conservatives and gauge whether moderates would back it.
What resulted was a tense meeting and still no deal or schedule to vote on the bill.
In a late-game development Wednesday night, the conservative House Freedom caucus indicated it may have struck a deal with the White House to include a repeal of “essential health benefits” in the leadership’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The change would be drastic and would mean that insurers no longer would be required to cover mental health care, maternity care or prescription drug coverage in the plans they offer.
For moderates, that’s going too far.
According to a lawmaker in the room, the discussion was frank and the question for many moderates remains whether repealing the benefits could lead to political fallout back home.
“A lot of people don’t realize what the implications of that are,” the member said of stripping out essential health benefits.
“So we’re gonna railroad this thing through and there’s going to be even more people pissed off–our constituents, stakeholders.”
Moderates on the fence
At this point, according to the member, a lot of moderates are trying to make a decision. Do they vote ‘yes,’ hope the bill goes to the Senate and the provision is stripped out of the bill and sent back to the House? Or do they vote against it and undermine the GOP’s credibility and ability to tackle legislative priorities in the future?
“To me, the central question is .. .could it potentially be worse to their long term credibility if they do force this through right now because people are gonna realize what this means after the fact,” the member said.
“And, some of us will pragmatically still vote for it even though we fundamentally disagree with stripping EHBs because the process argument of getting it over to the Senate so they can strip it out and send it back and just keep this thing moving so that ultimately we can get a reform is still ultimately more compelling than just killing it just to kill it,” the member added.
After the meeting with leadership, not everyone was willing to vote with leadership. Rep. Charlie Dent, a leader of the moderate Tuesday Group, released a public statement Wednesday night that he was officially opposed to the House GOP’s plan.