Trump Ultimatum: Vote on health care Friday or Obamacare stays
By NBC News
by LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, ALEX MOE and HALLIE JACKSON
Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney made clear Thursday evening that President Donald Trump is done negotiating on the hotly-debated health care bill and wants a vote on Friday.
And, if the president doesn't get a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, he will move on to other priorities, Mulvaney said according to a source in the room during the tense talks with GOP members. A senior administration source confirms to NBC News the "very definitive, very clarifying" message from the president and the administration's intention to move on, should the health care bill fail to move forward, to other matters such as tax reform, trade and border security.
If the bill does not pass, the president would see it as "people in Congress breaking their promises to their constituents to repeal and replace Obamacare" even with a Republican president in the White House," the source told NBC News.
"For seven and a half years, we have been promising to repeal and replace this broken law because it is collapsing and failing families," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday evening. "And tomorrow we are proceeding."
The latest salvo comes after House Republican leaders abruptly postponed a planned vote on the GOP health care bill Thursday as they struggled to find sufficient support to pass it. GOP lawmakers had previously been told procedural votes on the bill will still be held tonight and that a full vote on the measure could take place Friday.
The move to delay the vote came after House conservatives said there was no deal struck on the bill following a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday. According to the NBC News vote count, GOP leaders were still at least eight votes short of winning enough backing for passage.
The president's latest posture came as news to Rep. Mark Meadows R-North Carolina, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who earlier told reporters that there was no deal after the meeting, but added he was still hopeful one can be struck.
"I am very hopeful we can find a way to yes," Meadows said.
Rep. Tom Cole R-Oklahoma, a supporter of the health care bill, said the move away from a Thursday night vote "certainly makes a lot of sense."
"You reach a certain point in the day, and even if there were an agreement, you'd have to call the conference together, explain the deal, between the deal there might be a discussion, there might be last-minute changes or tweaks, I don't think you want to do this late at night," Cole said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday afternoon that the administration does not feel it needs a "plan B".
The negotiations continue into the night.
The moderate members, known as the "Tuesday Group", met with President Trump at the White House Thursday evening. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Ryan met with the conservative members in an effort to get consensus.
The conservative members' demands include the repeal of allowing kids to stay on their parents insurance until 26 and a ban on pre-existing conditions in addition to a repeal of the Essential Benefits Package, or ESP, which includes insurance coverage requirements such as maternity care, hospital care, mental health services and emergency care. The White House wouldn't budge on the pre-existing conditions and insurance until 26, but offered allowing the states the option to remove the ESPs.
House leaders and various Republican factions have worked in recent days to find a deal on the American Health Care Act, supported by House Speaker Paul Ryan, that would appease enough moderates and conservatives to win enough backing to get the legislation passed.
There are currently 30 Republicans who say they will not vote for the Trump-backed legislation. Among the latest is Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington.
"While I appreciate this week's effort by Speaker Ryan and his leadership team to better protect older Americans from health-care cost increases, the difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed," Herrera Beutler said in a statement Thursday.
Ryan huddled with moderate Republicans Wednesday night for two-and-a-half hours over pizza and snacks to hash out a way to move forward. But as rank-and-file members filed out, many taking a back way to avoid the press, they revealed little amid indications the negotiations had not gone well.
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania., released a statement after the meeting announcing that he'd vote "no."
"I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals," Dent said.
The opposition from Herrera and Dent helped push NBC News' tally of Republicans against or leaning against the bill to 30 — higher than it was two days ago.
The tenor of the negotiations changed Wednesday evening after the White House, responsible for negotiating with the conservatives while Ryan was tasked with the moderates, told critical members that they'd consider their demands. Those demands include removing the Essential Health Benefits, an Obamacare provision that requires insurance plans cover a minimum number of services, including maternity care, emergency room care, hospitalization, mental health care and more.
"It is our leadership team that has set an arbitrary deadline — we are happy to keep working with the White House and the leadership team but we don't think the arbitrary deadline of (Thursday) really means anything," said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan., who is voting against the bill unless desired changes are made.
The intense negotiations come as outside groups are putting more pressure on lawmakers.
The Charles and David Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners have reserved "seven figures" to reward members who oppose the bill. The development came as Trump told Republicans a day earlier that they'd be lose their seats if they voted against the Republican plan. And another conservative group, Club for Growth, is running television ads in some Republican districts to push members to vote against it.