House Leaders Delay Scheduled Vote On Republican Health Care Bill

Mar 23, 2017
Originally published on March 23, 2017 6:21 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

At this hour, House Speaker Paul Ryan is meeting with House Republicans in an attempt to save their party's health care bill. The House was supposed to vote on the proposal today, but by afternoon, that was no longer the plan. This drama is playing out seven years to the day that the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare was signed into law.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And we're going to start our coverage with NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. She's at the White House. And Mara, how come the vote was called off?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Because they don't have the votes. That's the simple answer. Here is Mark Meadows, the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, that group of conservatives that the president has been trying so hard to win over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK MEADOWS: We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes at this point under what we're currently considering. However, I would say progress is being made.

LIASSON: So the vote could still be held tomorrow. We haven't heard yet from House Speaker Ryan or the president since the delay was announced. But before it was announced, the president was meeting at the White House with a bunch of truck drivers, and he said, we'll see what happens; it's going to be a very close vote.

Also today the president continued lobbying members. He not only met with the Freedom Caucus. You just heard from Mark Meadows. He offered them something that they wanted very badly. He said he was willing to get rid of the essential health benefits, or EHBs, in the bill. That's the list of things the federal government requires insurers to offer on the individual market like pediatric care, mental health treatment including for drug addiction, maternity care - things like that.

The problem is - is that when he offered the House Freedom Caucus something they wanted, then he lost the votes of more moderate members who've also been meeting with him. Those members are worried that their constituents will lose coverage or get less coverage or see their premiums go up and their subsidies go down. So it's a real balancing act, and for today at least, the White House couldn't pull it off without falling off the bike.

CORNISH: Called it a balancing act - what are we learning about the president as a deal maker?

LIASSON: Well, he prides himself on being a master negotiator. We won't know if he's going to be successful until the end of all this. We certainly have learned that real estate negotiating is different from legislating. There are a lot more moving parts and a lot more people to deal with.

And the president, we have learned, clearly sees the goal of this negotiation as getting the bill through the House, not necessarily living up to every promise he made as a candidate or as president for insurance for everyone, better health care, lower premiums because you can see he's not really wedded to any particular policy. He was pretty willing to give up on those EHBs to get the votes of the Freedom Caucus.

CORNISH: Now, Mara I want you to stand by. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.