Will second time be the charm for Trump?
Just over a week after the Republicans' embarrassing failure to repeal Obamacare as a result of infighting with both conservative and moderate factions, on Monday White House officials led by the vice president met the same opposing Republicans in the House of Representatives, in an aggressive effort to revive the passage of the Republican Obamacare deal, potentially voting as soon as the end of the this week.
As Reported by Reuters and other newswires, members of the Trump administration led by 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 the Freedom Caucus, who have recently clashed with Trump over their insistence to block the bill in its current format. The revised deal as presented by Pence had two key components:
- Granting a waver to States from some, if not all, Obamacare insurance rules including the minimum benefits, the amount of medical expenses that insurers have to cover, and the rule preventing insurers from charging higher rates to sick people, per Axios.
- A $115 billion "stability fund" for the states would be narrowed to be spent specifically on high-risk pools, which many Republicans think is a better way to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
The Freedom caucus had a favorable first reaction: Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus laid out the administration's revised healthcare plan during a 40-minute meeting with Freedom Caucus members, said Congressman Mark Meadows, the leader of the conservative group. Meadows said he was "intrigued" by the new plan, which would allow states to opt out of some of Obamacare's mandates, possibly by obtaining waivers.
"We're encouraged ... but would certainly need a whole lot more information before we can take any action either in support or in opposition," Meadows told reporters. He expected to see a detailed draft of the proposal within 24 hours, he said.
Meanwhile, the moderates also were pleasantly surprised: in an earlier meeting with the moderate Tuesday Group, Pence said the new plan would preserve Obamacare's essential health benefits clause, or services and care that insurers must cover, but states could apply for a waiver if they could show it would improve coverage and reduce costs, according to Collins. Trump aides also discussed directing funds from the $115 billion stability fund for states into high-risk pools for people with pre-existing health conditions to better ensure insurance premiums come down in cost.
What is most notable about the recent attempt to reach out is the timing: the White House would like to see a revised bill come up for a vote as early as week's end, before the House breaks for a spring recess, and the text of the new proposal could be ready some time on Tuesday, lawmakers said.
"It was clear the president would be very happy come Friday to have this passed," said U.S. Representative Chris Collins, a member of the Tuesday Group and a Trump ally and added that "It's an acknowledgement that they were chasing votes with the Freedom Caucus and the Far Right and then ended up losing votes with those of us who are typically the most reliable votes."
The clincher may have been Trump's weekend golf game with Rand Paul: after golfing with the president on Sunday, Reuters reports that the Republican Senator, a sharp critic of the Republicans' previous healthcare bill, also expressed renewed hope the healthcare bill could be revised in a way that picked up support from the conservative and moderate factions of the Republican Party.
Paul told reporters he was "very optimistic that we are getting closer and closer to an agreement repealing Obamacare."
"This could move fairly quickly," Collins said.
If so, it would provide a much needed victory for Trump whose series of political missteps in recent weeks have seen his approval rating tumble even with Republicans, dropping to the lowest on record for a new president according to various polls.