By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior White House officials met with moderate and conservative Republicans in the US House of Representatives on Monday in an effort to revive a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Key members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, invited a group of moderate Republicans known as the “Tuesday Group” to the White House. Pence then went to Capitol Hill to meet with the Freedom Caucus, a group of House conservatives that last month derailed a health care bill backed by President Donald Trump.
The White House would like a revised bill to be voted on as soon as the weekend, before the House pauses for a spring recess, and the text of the new proposal could be ready sometime Tuesday. lawmakers said.
“It was clear that the president would be very happy on Friday that this passed,” said US Rep. Chris Collins, a member of the Tuesday Group and a Trump ally.
“This could go pretty fast,” he said.
Just 10 days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to cancel a vote on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act of 2010, popularly known as Obamacare, when it was clear that no he could deliver the votes necessary for it to pass.
The defeat was a major political setback for Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress who were elected with a pledge to repeal and replace former Democratic President Barack Obama‘s signature healthcare law.
Members of the Freedom Caucus said the Republican bill was too similar to Obamacare, while moderate Republicans opposed some of the changes that conservatives were seeking.
Trump attacked members of the Freedom Caucus on Twitter late last week for their opposition to the bill and threatened to work to defeat them in the 2018 congressional elections.
Over the weekend, he took a more conciliatory tone, tweeting early Sunday: “Talks about repealing and replacing Obamacare are continuing, and have continued, and will continue until a deal is reached.”
After playing golf with the president on Sunday, Republican Senator Rand Paul, a sharp critic of the Republicans’ previous health bill, also expressed renewed hope that the health bill can be revised in a way that get the support of the conservative and moderate factions of the Republicans. Match.
Paul told reporters that he was “very optimistic that we are getting closer and closer to a deal repealing Obamacare.”
Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus presented the administration’s revised health plan during a 40-minute meeting with members of the Freedom Caucus, said Congressman Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative group.
Meadows said he was “intrigued” by the new plan, which would allow states to exclude themselves from some of Obamacare’s mandates, possibly by obtaining waivers.
“We are encouraged … but we would certainly need a lot more information before we can take any action, either in support or opposition,” Meadows told reporters. He expected to see a detailed draft of the proposal within 24 hours, he said.
In the previous meeting with the moderate group on Tuesday, White House officials said the new plan would preserve Obamacare’s essential health benefits clause, or the services and care that insurers must cover, but states could request an exemption if they could show it would improve coverage and reduce costs, according to Collins.
Trump’s advisers also discussed allocating funds from the $ 115 billion stability fund for states to high-risk groups for people with pre-existing health conditions to ensure that insurance premiums fall in cost, Collins said.
“It’s a recognition that they were chasing votes with the Freedom Caucus and the far right and then they ended up losing votes with those of us who are generally the most reliable votes,” Collins said of the proposal’s provisions discussed at the meeting.