From left: Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at a news conference to discuss new legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 15, 2017. T(Al Drago/The New York Times)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

BREAKING: Republicans pull health care bill amid internal revolt

“This is a setback no two ways about it,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a Capitol Hill news conference late Friday. But Ryan said the fight to repeal Obamacare wasn’t over

“We just didn’t quite get consensus today,” Ryan said.

Republicans have campaigned for years on a pledge to repeal Obamacare.

“Now we are going to be living with Obamacare for the forseeable future,” he said.

3:40 p.m.

The House was supposed to vote on the Republicans’ imperiled Obamacare replacement bill around 3:30 p.m. today. Instead, GOP leaders called for a recess to huddle behind closed doors and discuss their options of how to move forward.

It appears the GOP still doesn’t have the votes to pass the bill, despite a host of last-minute efforts by House leaders and the president to win over support from holdouts.

1:45 p.m.

The fate of the Republican health care bill looked grim Friday afternoon just hours before the House was set to vote on it.

House Speaker Paul Ryan met with President Donald Trump to update him on the status of the effort to win over enough conservatives to pass the legislation. But media reports indicated GOP leaders may be forced to pull the bill before a vote because it won’t pass.

The president has personally visited, called or met at the White House with lawmakers to answer all of their questions, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said in a press briefing this afternoon.

He and Ryan have done everything they can to win support, Spicer said.

“You can’t force someone to vote in a certain way,” he said. “At the end of the day, this isn’t a dictatorship.”

Lawmakers are the ones who have to go back to the people they represent and tell them why they didn’t uphold their pledge to repeal Obamacare, Spicer added.

The House is currently scheduled to vote on the bill around 3:30 p.m. today.

12:50 p.m.

Georgia backers of the GOP health care bill are growing more optimistic that the legislation will pass the House later this afternoon.

“There’s been a lot of discussion overnight. There’s a lot of realization that now’s the time,” said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, a member of the GOP leadership team.

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Leaders are moving full steam ahead with the bill after forging a new compromise with wary conservatives last night.

But despite the optimism, there were signs Friday afternoon that the bill could still end up sinking.

Tallies compiled by varies news organizations have indicated it could be an uphill slug for leaders after more moderate Republicans traditionally aligned with leadership announced their opposition to the bill, including Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey.

What You Need To Know: American Health Care Act

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, who have led GOP opposition to the bill, met late Thursday night. Leaders of the conservative group studiously avoided the spotlight on Friday, with chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., telling reporters he wouldn’t comment on the state of things.

In a positive sign for leaders, Freedom Caucus members did allow the House to move forward with floor debate on the measure earlier this morning. The chamber is set to vote on the bill Friday at around 4 p.m.

Collins said it’s time to put the ball in the Senate’s court.

“It’s time for us to do our work and then let the Senate all of a sudden become legislators,” he said Friday. “Let’s let them begin the work as well.”

Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans, has been a vocal backer of the bill and wants the House to pass it ASAP. But the former businessman said he admired the Freedom Caucus’ negotiating skills.

“You’ve got to try to get the best deal that you can and I admire them for what they’ve done,” he said.

Other Georgia Republicans weren’t as pleased.

“This is about a couple of self-serving people like Mark Meadows who are pulling a cheap political stunt for their own glorification at the expense of the country,” Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, said Thursday of the Freedom Caucus chairman.

11:15 a.m.

Lawmakers voted this morning to move forward on debating the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan.

They’ll have four hours to weigh the legislation before voting on it. It’s likely to be a close vote as some conservatives continue to hold out.

10:45 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia urged passage of the GOP health plan Friday morning.

Young people are not enrolling in Obamacare, Woodall said. And they are particularly sensitive to the health law’s essential health benefits that increase insurance costs, he said.

Opponents of the bill are criticizing it saying it will hurt older Americans, but at the same time they want to keep the costly essential health benefits that require insurers to offer services like maternity care that women ages 54 to 64 don’t need, Woodall said.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We in Georgia know it doesn’t make sense, and we can do better.”

Original post

Republicans are bracing for a big showdown today as the U.S. House of Representatives gathers to finally vote on the GOP's Obamacare replacement plan after weeks of bitter debate and standoffs within their own ranks.

President Donald Trump pulled out the big guns late Thursday night, sending his top White House aids to rally conservative lawmakers behind closed doors. His message was clear: this is the bill to do away with the Affordable Care Act -- take it or leave it.

The hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus opposes the bill, called the American Health Care Act, saying it doesn’t go far enough. Any GOP health plan, they argue, should gut Obamacare entirely.

Trump continued to hammer caucus members Friday morning via Twitter.

Republican leaders did make concessions late Thursday night in a last-minute scramble to save their bill. 

They agreed to eliminate the “essential health benefits,” such as maternity care and addiction treatment, that Obamacare requires insurers to offer.

Joel and Katie Blevins are currently insured under the Affordable Care Act, which is under fire by the current administration. The Blevins talk about how the potential repeal could impact them and others in their community. (David Barnes/AJC)

Whether that will do the trick to win over enough lawmakers to get the plan passed remains to be seen. 

A number of moderate conservatives worried about the large numbers of people who would lose their insurance under the plan are also holding out.

House Speaker Paul Ryan needs 215 votes to get the legislation passed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s health policy reporter Misty Williams and Washington correspondent Tamar Hallerman will be following the debate throughout the day.

Return for updates.

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