Health and Science

Freedom Caucus threatens formal opposition to Obamacare replacement bill barring dramatic changes by Wednesday night

Freedom Caucus: Unless bill changes, we may oppose

A key group of conservative Republicans in the House is threatening to issue a formal statement of opposition to the Obamacare replacement bill — potentially crippling its chances of being passed in its current form Thursday during a scheduled vote by the full House.

The Freedom Caucus is poised to issue that negative statement — which likely would delay the vote — unless the language in the legislation changes dramatically by Wednesday night.

The bill, as currently written, is "going down as of now," said a source familiar with the situation.

There are 25 "hard" no votes against the bill in the conservative caucus, and two more members are leaning toward voting against it, the source said. Republicans hold just 230 seats in the House, so they cannot afford that many no votes if they hope to pass the bill, given that most, if not all, Democrats will oppose it.

Conservative opposition to the bill stems from a belief that it does not go far enough to repeal Obamacare.

The potential move by Freedom Caucus is a slap in the face to Republican leaders and to President Donald Trump, who traveled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to personally lobby members of the GOP to pass the bill known as the American Health Care Act.

Trump warned caucus members than many of them could lose their seats in Congress next year if they voted against the bill.

On Monday night, GOP leaders made several changes to the bill, most of which were designed to assuage concerns about the legislation by conservative members of the House.

A protester holds signs during a Freedom Works rally against the proposed GOP health care plan at Upper Senate Park across from the U.S. Capitol on March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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The changes included speeding up the repeal of Obamacare taxes, giving states more flexibility in administering their own Medicaid programs, and allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid enrollees.

Another change would provide financing that would allow the Senate, once it receives the bill, to add to the value of tax credits given to people age 50 to 64 to help pay for their individual health insurance plans. That change was made to alleviate concerns that people in that age cohort would see big increases in premiums if the previous version of the bill became law.

Trump and Congressional Republicans ran on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is formally known, and Trump and many members of Congress say that the law also needs to be replaced with new legislation.

But the American Health Care Act has drawn fire from conservatives who want wholesale repeal of Obamacare, and who also oppose federal aid to help people buy individual insurance plans. The bill also worries some moderate members of the GOP because of projections that up top 24 million more people would become uninsured if it becomes law than would be if Obamacare were to remain in place.

—CNBC's John Harwood contributed to this story.