In what may be a critical flip for the passage of the Republican healthcare bill - not to mention boosting Trump's image as dealmaker - moments ago Republican reps. Fred Upton and Billy Long both said Wednesday they will support the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill with the addition of a new amendment Upton drafted. Until this morning, both had opposed the bill, and prompted us to write on Monday that Republicans are just one vote away from failure again.
The two Republicans told reporters at the White House after a meeting with President Trump that they are ready to vote for the bill once a new amendment Upton helped devise - which would boost funding for people with pre-existing conditions - is added. The amendment would provide $8 billion over the next 5 years to reduce premiums and other costs for those with pre-existing conditions who have a gap in coverage and reside in states that received waivers from some of Obamacare’s requirements.
Quoted by Bloomberg, Upton said that "I think it is likely now to pass the House" but hedged, adding that he’s “not in the whip count” and can’t definitively say there are enough votes for the bill to pass. Upton said a vote could be held as soon as Thursday.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise told The Hill that the Upton amendment meant that he was putting both Upton and Long back in the "yes" column for his internal whip count. House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) told The Hill the late change "absolutely" added net votes to the GOP tally.
Then again, maybe this is just the latest optimistic "false alarm": Rep. Charlie Dent, a co-chairman of a group of House Republican moderates, said he still opposes the health bill, even with the latest changes. Another leading moderate, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, said he also hasn’t been swayed by the changes.
Further details from Bloomberg:
Democrats immediately blasted the change, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying: “The proposed Upton amendment is like administering cough medicine to someone with stage 4 cancer."
Other Republicans haven’t seen details or text of the amendment, but health-care experts said the added funding is unlikely to make a big difference, unless very few states receive those waivers.
Other similary did not express much confidence: the $8 billion in funding is a “drop in the bucket,” said Matt Fiedler, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Health Policy. He said the funding, even including the bill’s stability fund and risk-pool funding, wouldn’t be enough to fully protect people with pre-existing conditions from facing higher costs.
Still, it was enough for the White House which earlier expressed optimism, with budget director Mick Mulvaney telling Fox News on Wednesday that the chamber might vote on the health bill as early as Saturday. Mulvaney said he believes the amendment by Upton - the most significant Republican defection yet on Tuesday - will help draw moderates’ support for the legislation.