Trump Warns House Republicans of Political Risks If They Block Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON -- Days before a critical vote on the Republican bill to replace Obamacare, President Donald Trump traveled to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to lobby wary House GOP members to get behind the effort.Trump’s pitch focused on the potential political repercussions of failing to pass an Obamacare replacement bill, members in attendance said. The president warned the Republicans that they may be at risk of losing their seats in 2018 if they don’t follow through with longtime promises to repeal his predecessor’s signature healthcare bill.But skeptical conservatives emerged from the closed-doors meeting without having changed their mind. They urged the president to focus on their policy complaints about the bill -- named the American Health Care Act -- rather than discussing the political factors involved.At one point, Trump singled out Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus whose members have steadfastly opposed the bill. But Meadows said after the meeting that, despite his “utmost respect” for the president, the message had not changed his mind on the policy issues.Meadows visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida over the weekend with GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah to negotiate on the bill. But Lee emerged from a White House meeting Tuesday saying he was frustrated by the administration’s unwillingness to negotiate key tenets of the bill.Other Freedom Caucus members echoed Meadows’ sentiment. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said he “absolutely” still plans to vote against the bill Thursday. And Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, said Trump’s singling out of Meadows only doubled the resolve of the conservative group.If just four Republicans join the Democrats in opposing the bill Thursday, it will fall short of the votes needed for passage. Freedom Caucus members expressed full confidence after the meeting with Trump that the bill was still far short of the required number of votes.Still, allies of the president argued that his message was an effective one.“There was certainly no commitment that came back, but he reminded everyone in the room: This is what we campaigned on,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., Trump’s liaison on Capitol Hill. “It’s a binary choice at this point. If the Freedom Caucus kills this bill, which they could, then they will have voted to continue Obamacare, which -- as the president pointed out -- in 2018 means we would probably lose the House and the Senate.”Contrary to Trump’s argument that they may lose the Senate majority if they don’t pass the bill, several conservatives countered that they’ll lose the majority if they do pass it.But after some uncertainty in the days after the bill was released whether Trump would be fully on board, he removed all doubt in the meeting with House Republicans.“He’s enthusiastically in favor of it,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, a Midland Republican.Though Trump’s message fell on a few deaf ears, supporters of the bill were pleased that the president had come to the Capitol to put his personal imprimatur on the closing efforts.“It was very important” for Trump to make the pitch in person, said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee that helped put the bill together. “Let’s unite. That was his message.”Last week, Trump persuaded two Texas Republicans -- Reps. Blake Farenthold and John Ratcliffe -- to get behind the bill just by telling them at the White House that he fully supports it. Trump took that pitch up a notch Tuesday, Farenthold said, warning the Republicans they may get primary opponents if they don’t vote for the bill.“The vast majority of folks came in supporting the president and came in on the promise of repealing Obamacare, and this is the only vehicle out there right now for repealing Obamacare,” Farenthold said. “I’d hate to go back home to Texas and say, ‘I had the opportunity to repeal Obamacare and I didn’t.’”  Continue reading...

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