House Republicans Say They Will Vote On Their Health Care Plan

GOP leaders are choosing to stay ignorant of the effects of their legislation ― and Republican members are letting it happen.

WASHINGTON ― After weeks of false starts and negotiations, House Republicans are set to vote on their health care plan Thursday, without a review by the Congressional Budget Office or a clear sense that they have enough votes to pass the legislation.

Republican leaders announced Wednesday night that the House would vote on the GOP’s legislation to repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act after three congressmen who looked opposed signed on to an amendment that had already flipped two other Republicans.

“We have the votes,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters following a meeting with leadership. And with those late switches, McCarthy may finally be right.

If they don’t already have the votes, Republicans are clearly close to enough to go to the floor. There are roughly 16 Republicans who are hard noes, another few who seem to be leaning in opposition, and an additional couple dozen who haven’t unequivocally stated where they stand.

At this point, that aversion to going on the record may be more about avoiding political blowback than to actually taking a stand. Members seem to prefer to not take a public position if they won’t have to vote. But those mysteries, supposedly, will be laid bare Thursday, when Republicans give the bill an up-or-down that will require just about every “undecided” member to support the bill.

The big development that seemed to put the GOP in a better position was three Republicans ― Jeff Denham (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.), and David Young (Iowa) ― signing on to an amendment from Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Billy Long (R-Mo.). The amendment would provide $8 billion for states that waive provisions for pre-existing medical conditions. Upton, who had said on Tuesday that additional money for high-risk pools would not get him to yes, completely flipped his position on Wednesday, when he accepted the $8 billion deal.

“I thought it was just maybe a general pool,” Upton told reporters. “This is targeted specifically towards those that might be exclude because of a governor’s waiver.”

To arrive at the $8 billion figure, Upton said leadership told him it would cost $5 billion. He negotiated the sum higher, without explaining how anyone got any of those numbers.

Tom Williams via Getty Images

The Center for American Progress estimated on Tuesday that the GOP bill underfunds high-risk pools by $200 billion over 10 years. But the $8 billion amendment appears as if it was enough to ultimately swing five members’ votes.

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who had said he would oppose the bill unless he got an amendment ensuring that people in Florida nursing homes relying on Medicaid would not be kicked out of a bed, declared Wednesday night that he would support the bill. Webster didn’t get his amendment, but aides said he got assurances from President Donald Trump that his concerns would be addressed later.

Despite those developments, Republicans could still be short a few votes. And if they’re unable to flip members on the floor, there could be a pack of members who turn against the bill, preferring to vote no if the legislation is going down anyway. There are already some members who have vowed to only vote for the bill if leadership truly needs their vote.

For all the confidence that GOP leadership was expressing Wednesday night, there were still some members who had some doubts the bill would pass.

“I sense they’re not confident they have the votes, but they’ve decided some chance of success is better than zero percent if they don’t hold the vote,” one Republican member told HuffPost.

If leaders are counting on members to support the bill if the measure needs their support to pass, Republicans may get over the finish line without a single vote to spare ― or they may come up short by more than a dozen. It will surely be a vote where leaders will go to the floor without certainty of the measure’s fate.

Republicans also will be going to the floor Thursday without certainty ― or even basic knowledge ― of what their bill will do. Republicans still have not received a Congressional Budget Office score for the legislation after a significant amendment brokered between moderate Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) was added to the bill. That amendment would allow states to opt out of provisions protecting people with pre-existing conditions from facing significantly higher premiums than healthy people, as long as states set up a high-risk pool for the sickest individuals.

That amendment would face long odds in the Senate, if House Republicans were able to advance the bill. But then much of the House bill seems like it would need to be changed to get through the Senate. In fact, one of the arguments that Republican leaders have adopted for convincing moderates in recent days is that supporting this bill just advances the process and gets the bill off the House plate.

House leaders were still whipping members Wednesday night, either to build a cushion for the legislation, or to actually get them to a passing threshold.

Here is the current HuffPost whip count on the latest version of the GOP health care proposal. This whip count is based on conversations with lawmakers and staffers with knowledge of how members are voting. Not every lawmaker on this list has confirmed how he or she will vote ― this is our best guess:

No (15)
Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
Barbara Comstock (Va.)
Ryan Costello (Pa.)
Charlie Dent (Pa.)
Dan Donovan (N.Y.)
Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.)
Walter Jones (N.C.)
John Katko (N.Y.)
Leonard Lance (N.J.)
Frank LoBiondo (N.J.)
Thomas Massie (Ky.)
Patrick Meehan (Pa.)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)
Chris Smith (N.J.)

Lean No (3)
Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.)
David Joyce (Ohio)
Michael Turner (Ohio)

Undecided (9)
Justin Amash (Mich.)
Carlos Curbelo (Fla.)
Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.)
Darrell Issa (Calif.)
Steve Knight (Calif.)
Erik Paulsen (Minn.)
Peter Roskam (Ill.)
Kevin Yoder (Kan.)
Don Young (Alaska)

Lean Yes (15)
Mike Coffman (Colo.)
Paul Cook (Calif.)
Jeff Denham (Calif.)
Tom Emmer (Minn.)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.)
Adam Kinzinger (Ill.)
Bruce Poliquin (Maine)
Dave Reichert (Wash.)
Hal Rogers (Ky.)
Ed Royce (Calif.)
Scott Tipton (Colo.)
David Valadao (Calif.)
Rob Wittman (Va.)
David Young (Iowa)
Lee Zeldin (N.Y.)

This post has been updated to reflect the latest whip counts as of Thursday morning.

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