WASHINGTON — Abandoning negotiations, President Donald Trump on Thursday demanded a make-or-break vote on health care legislation in the House, threatening to leave Obamacare in place and move on to other issues if Friday’s vote fails.
The risky move, part gamble and part threat, was presented to GOP lawmakers behind closed doors Thursday night after an intense day that saw a planned vote on the American Health Care Act scrapped as the legislation remained short of the votes needed to pass it.
At the end of a day of negotiations among conservative lawmakers, moderates and others, the president had had enough and was ready to vote and move on, whatever the result, Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told lawmakers.
“‘Negotiations are over. We’d like to vote tomorrow, and let’s get this done for the American people.’ That was it,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, said as he left the meeting, summarizing Mulvaney’s message to lawmakers.
And if the vote fails, Obamacare “stays for now,” Hunter said.
Earlier Thursday, GOP leaders delayed floor action on the bill after Trump failed to reach a deal with conservative lawmakers at a White House meeting.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said not enough members were willing to support the legislation despite ongoing negotiations, “but progress is being made.”
Meadows made the comments after the White House meeting.
Moderate Republicans, meanwhile, also met with Trump.
Several members of the moderate GOP Tuesday Group complained that changes sought by conservatives would make the bill unpalatable to them.
Tuesday Group leader Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, said in a statement that the bill “will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans.”
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, sought to amend the bill to protect Nevadans, many of whom live in counties where only one insurance provider exists.
Amodei has argued that the AHCA, as it is written, would not lower premiums, and that deductibles for his constituents would not go down.
“We’ve done our homework,” Amodei posted on a social media account. “I’m a no on #AHCA.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and other Republican governors who expanded Medicaid under Obamacare have opposed the House replacement bill because it would reduce federal funding for that expansion and shift those costs to states.
Despite the turmoil and high political stakes, Trump remained confident that the bill would pass.
During a meeting with trucking CEOs and drivers at the White House, Trump told reporters “we have a great bill.” He continued into the afternoon to insist the House would vote on the bill Thursday night.
And spokesman Sean Spicer told a White House briefing that there was “no plan B.”
But GOP leaders announced a postponement when Meadows said that the GOP did not have the votes for passage.
Some conservative, like Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida, a Freedom Caucus member, said he wants a 100-percent repeal of Obamacare.
But even Trump has promised to keep some Obamacare provisions, like those prohibiting insurance companies from excluding people for pre-existing medical conditions and a measure that allows parents to keep their children on their policies until age 26.
Failure of the House to pass the replacement bill would be a stinging defeat for Trump and Republicans who have campaigned on promises to repeal Obamacare, which passed in 2010 without one GOP vote.
As of Thursday morning, about 25 House GOP conservatives and a growing number of moderates were publicly against the GOP bill.
In the House, Republicans hold a 237-193 majority with five vacancies. Republicans need 216 votes to pass the health care legislation.
Even with House passage, the legislation faces high hurdles in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim 52-48 majority.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, has said he could not support the House bill in its current form.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, and Democrats in both chambers are united in their opposition to the Republican replacement bill.
Nevada Reps. Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen, all Democrats, have cited the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office review and the left-leaning Center for American Progress study that shows thousands of Nevadans would lose insurance under the GOP proposal.
The CBO projected that 24 million could lose insurance under the House plan.
A new poll out Thursday by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of American voters disapprove of the GOP replacement bill, 56-17 percent with 26 percent undecided. Support among Republicans was lackluster, 41-24 percent.
The poll was taken nationally from March 16-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.