By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, March 23, 2017, the US House of Representatives was supposed to vote on the American Health Care Act to replace the unpopular Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The vote did not happen when it became apparent that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) did not have the votes to pass the legislation, that both he and President Donald J. Trump are urging Congress to pass.
US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) supports the bill. Rep. Byrne said on social media, “I appeared on Fox Business earlier today to talk about the importance of passing President Trump’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. We have made a promise to the American people to get rid of Obamacare and all of the failed mandates. We need to pass the American Health Care Act and rescue the American people from the failures of Obamacare.”
Not everyone in the Republican House Caucus agrees. Conservatives did not like the original American Health Care Act and asked for changes.
US Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said on social media on Friday. “President Trump called me to the Oval Office this morning to discuss the American Healthcare Act, because of his understanding that I could not support the current language of the bill. He listened to my concerns about how it would impact older Alabamians and the poor in our state. I reminded him that he received overwhelming support from Alabama’s voters. The President looked me in the eye and said, “These are my people and I will not let them down. We will fix this for them.” I also asked the President point blank if this House bill was the one that he supported. He told me he supports it “one thousand percent. After receiving the President’s word that these concerns will be addressed, I changed my vote to yes. These changes will be made to the bill before it is voted on.”
The changes that Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan have made to try to placate conservatives have not won over the 30 member ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus; but they have angered the moderate fifty member, Tuesday Group, which is chaired by Representative Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania). The Tuesday Group was formed in 1994 after the Republican takeover of Congress. They felt then that conservatives had too much power in the caucus. They are the intellectual successors of the old Wednesday Group, which felt Barry Goldwater Ronald Reagan was taking the party too far right in the 1970s and 1980s.
Tuesday Group members are threatening to vote against the bill if their concerns are not addressed. The Freedom Caucus is chaired by Representative Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) which formed in 2015 as a separate body from the conservative Republican Study Committee. The Freedom Caucus is trying to move the legislation further right. Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) is still not happy with the bill.
At issue is Medicaid. The Freedom Caucus would like to see major Medicaid reforms in order to lower healthcare costs against the budget going forward, most of the Obamacare regulatory apparatus including the healthcare exchanges abolished, and the essential services definition for a qualified health insurance plan abolished. Reforms that the moderates in the Tuesday Caucus are opposed to.
The Whitehouse and the Speaker’s office are working through the night to craft a compromise so that 212 Republicans can support the American Healthcare Act. Democrats insist that not one Democrats will vote for any part of any Republican plan.
It is hoped that a vote can occur tomorrow; but that is very much in doubt at this moment.
The Hill is reporting that Whitehouse Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus, told the GOP conference that Trump wants a vote on Friday and has said that if the vote fails, Trump will move on to other priorities and Obamacare will stay as the law of the land.
Rep. Byrne said in a statement late Thursday night, “President Trump sent a message to us tonight: he is done negotiating and it is time to vote on our bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. This bill is a strong bill with conservative reforms that will lower costs, increase choices, and give Americans the freedoms they deserve. I will support the bill tomorrow because we must keep our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”