Health and Science

Obamacare replacement bill still doesn't have votes to pass, as Trump makes confusing statements about that bill

Key Points
  • Republicans in Congress are short of the votes to get an Obamacare replacement bill passed in the House.
  • GOP leaders are dealing with a president, Donald Trump, who is making confusing statements about what the bill will, and won't, do.
Trump interview suggests he doesn't know what's in his health bill

Avoiding a government shutdown is easy when you compare it with repealing Obamacare.

Republicans in Congress still don't have the votes to get an Obamacare replacement bill passed in the House, nearly two months after they introduced that bill, and even as certain officials keep issuing optimistic predictions about the legislation's fate.

And as they try to whip up enough GOP caucus members to pass their bill, Republicans leaders are dealing with a president, Donald Trump, who is making confusing statements about what the bill will, and won't, do.

Trump, during an interview Sunday on the CBS program "Face the Nation," appeared shaky about some of the details of the bill, which would repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act.

"We're getting closer and closer every day," Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, told reporters Monday when asked how close Republicans were to winning passage of the American Health Care Act bill.

"Today I assume that we're closer today than we were a week ago, but we're not there yet."

"We feel confident in the direction this is going," Spicer said. "We've seen more and more members on board."

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But even as Spicer spoke, reported that the number of Republican House members who have stated they will oppose the bill is 22. That's the maximum number of defections the GOP can have, given the fact that all Democrats in the House are expected to vote against it.

And because there are several dozen more GOP members who are undecided, it is very unlikely that Republican leaders could win passage if they called the vote Monday.

Earlier Monday, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, during an appearance on CBS, predicted the bill would pass this week.

"This is going to be a great week," Cohn said. "We're going to get health care down to the floor of the House. We're convinced that we've got the votes."

When Spicer was asked later if Cohn had been overly optimistic, the press secretary said that "I would never get in front of the speaker," referring to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Spicer noted that Ryan, along with the rest of the House leadership, "ultimately" will decide when the right time is to call for a vote.

In late March, that leadership, along with Trump, were badly embarrassed when they canceled a planned vote on the replacement bill after it became clear it would fail to win passage

Since then, the bill has undergone several changes, each of which has been followed by predictions that passage was close, followed by walking back of those projections by the White House, or Republicans in Congress, or by both.

That is despite the fact that Republicans, who for years campaigned on promises of fully repealing Obamacare, control both the White House and the two chambers of Congress.

Last week, the conservative House Freedom Caucus said it would back the bill after changes were made to allow states to get waivers that would allow insurers not to cover certain minimum health benefits, and also to allow insurers to charge people with health issues higher premiums.

While some conservatives might have been persuaded to vote for the bill by those changes, a number of moderate Republicans either continue to have problems with the bill, or were turned off by the changes themselves.

The Republican holdouts are concerned that the bill would lead to steep increases in both the number of uninsured people, and premiums for millions of Americans who continue to buy private individual insurance plans. They also fear that they will be blamed for those effects during the 2018 congressional elections.

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