by Sarah Westwood · April 21, 2017
White House officials and Republican aides worked to downplay expectations of an imminent vote on Obamacare reform legislation Thursday amid widespread speculation that a healthcare deal was in the offing.
While both the White House and GOP aides confirmed that healthcare negotiations have continued throughout the congressional recess, both sides stressed that a compromise bill may not be ready for a vote by next week, when lawmakers return from their two-week break.
“Congress needs to act quickly on a solution for the American people. Our administration is engaged in those conversations and we are making progress,” a White House official told the Washington Examiner. “But there is not a set deadline to complete it.”
A senior Republican aide told the Examiner that discussions about how to unite members behind an Obamacare reform bill had yielded “no legislative text.”
And Trump himself expressed uncertainty that a new version of the healthcare bill would be ready by next week, although he predicted it could be ready “shortly thereafter.”
“We’re doing very well on healthcare,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens.”
White House officials had been hopeful that they could facilitate a deal on Capitol Hill that would allow a healthcare bill to advance before April 29, when Trump will celebrate his 100th day in office.
With few legislative accomplishments to tout at the end of the symbolic 100-day period, Trump’s team has worked during recess to fine-tune an amendment that would allow conservative hold-outs to get behind the bill without losing too many centrist Republicans in the process.
It’s a balancing act that has proven difficult over the past six weeks, during which House Republicans have repeatedly claimed to be nearing a compromise on repealing and replacing Obamacare, only to back away when lawmakers realized they still did not have the votes necessary to pass a bill.
After the initial collapse of healthcare negotiations on March 24 — the day House leadership pulled the American Health Care Act from the floor ahead of a scheduled vote — talks have centered on the idea of creating waivers that would allow states to opt out of certain Obamacare regulations while preserving the rules for states that wanted them.
“The question is whether it can get 216 votes in the House and the answer isn’t clear at this time,” a House leadership aide told the Examiner. “There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count.”
Another source familiar with the talks said the discussions of compromise details have been taking place on a “member to member” level.
Senior administration officials have expressed frustration that House Republicans fractured when it came time to repeal and replace Obamacare, a promise made to voters by nearly every elected Republican.
But the bill introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan last month left much of the regulatory framework of Obamacare intact, causing conservative members to oppose the legislation.
When members return from recess next week, they will have to contend with a possible government shutdown on April 28 if lawmakers cannot agree on a funding mechanism that keeps the government running.