House leaders now believe they have the votes to pass the GOP health care bill later today after agreeing to add a provision to give states an additional $8 billion in funding to help cover insurance costs for sick people and those with pre-existing conditions.
“We have enough votes,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Wednesday evening. “It’ll pass.”
House Republicans had shored up support from the conservative Freedom Caucus by adding a provision to the American Health Care Act that would allow insurers to charge more to people with preexisting conditions if their states opted out of provisions in the ACA barring such decisions. The states that opted out would have to set up “high-risk pools” to absorb some of the costs of caring for people with pre-existing conditions.
But that change caused at least 20 more moderate Republicans to voice their opposition to the new bill, with at least another two dozen undecided. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) could only lose 22 Republicans and still pass the bill. Adding an amendment from Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who came out against the bill earlier this week, seemed to get the bill over the hump in terms of votes. Upton’s amendment gives the additional $8 billion over five years to states that apply for funds to set up high-risk pools.
“I’ve been on the record for many years in favor of repealing and replacing Obamacare with reasonable solutions that improve affordability and access while protecting those with pre-existing conditions,” Upton said. “I believe that with this new funding in place, we keep our promise to those with pre-existing conditions.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Republican leaders are bowing to pressure from the White House to get a floor vote before the Congressional Budget Office has scored the revised bill.
“Forcing a vote without a CBO score shows that Republicans are terrified of the public learning the full consequences of their plan to push Americans with pre-existing conditions into the cold,” Pelosi said. “House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable.”
Senate Republicans have stayed relatively quiet on the House bill this week, but are looking at possible changes should the House pass it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would likely introduce a substitute version of the bill that removes provisions that aren’t allowable in a budget reconciliation bill. Reconciliation is the vehicle Republicans are using to repeal the ACA with a simple majority vote that avoids the filibuster threat.