On what could be the eve of a crucial health care vote and with the reported numbers still seemingly unfavorable, the White House remained confident that the American Health Care Act would pass the House on Thursday.
“Piece by piece, member by member, we’re getting there, and we’re getting much closer,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday of gathering the votes necessary to repeal Obamacare. “The last couple days, we’ve continued to do that, but today alone, a couple of the other members — slowly but surely we’re getting there. I feel confident when the votes come up, we’ll have the votes.”
He added: “There is no Plan B. There’s Plan A and Plan A. We’re going to get this done. That’s it, plain and simple.”
The White House team did have some success on Wednesday, flipping Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., to a “yes” vote after assuring him that they supported his proposed amendment, which would deny health care credits to undocumented immigrants.
The administration still faces significant hurdles in winning over moderate Republican and conservative members of the Freedom Caucus, whose leader, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Wednesday afternoon that there were still enough “no” votes to block the bill’s passage. Freedom Caucus member Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told NPR that while he was charmed by his reception at the meeting at the White House, he was still a “no” vote.
On Wednesday afternoon, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., said in a CNN interview that he thought it was possible there could be a pause on Thursday’s vote. When asked by Fox News if he would consider postponing the vote, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he wouldn’t get into hypotheticals but did not specifically deny the possibility of a delay.
Spicer was given multiple opportunities to hedge the White House’s bets on Thursday’s vote, but he declined to do so on each occasion.
One reporter asked him whether describing the president as “the closer” was appropriate, with respect to swaying Republican votes on health care.
Did the president believe the health care bill would pass the House on Thursday?
If at this point Thursday, the necessary votes were not forthcoming, should Ryan pull the bill from the floor?
“No, this is it.”
If Thursday night’s outcome does not go the White House’s way, Spicer was asked, what should be inferred about the president’s ability to negotiate and close deals?
“We feel very good about the trajectory of this,” Spicer said. “Members continue to come with us. The number is going higher and higher, not lower and lower, so the trajectory is great. Everybody’s out there full-court press on this. This is the opportunity for anybody who wants to see this done.”
The strategy of the White House and the speaker was apparently to put the bill to a floor vote, calculating that the pressure of being singled out as the group or person responsible for blocking the repeal of Obamacare would limit the number of defections.
“If you want to see Obamacare repealed and replaced, this is the vote,” said Spicer, “This is the time to act. This is what people have told the American people is going to happen. This vote needs to happen. If you’re waiting for your chance, this is it. We need to act.”
Trump kept up the positive spin Tuesday night while speaking at the National Republican Congressional Committee March Dinner, saying that he hoped “that it’s all going to work out.”
“On Nov. 8, the American people voted for historic change, and they also voted for serious action by delivering the House, the Senate and the White House,” he said to a gathering of GOP congressmen. “The American people gave us clear instructions. It’s time to get busy, get to work and to get the job done. That legislative effort begins with Thursday’s crucial vote. And it really is a crucial vote for the Republican Party and for the people of our country, to finally repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare. That’s what it is, a disaster.”
If the bill were to pass the House, it would face long odds in the Senate without major changes, as Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mike Lee, R-Utah., have already said they would vote against it. In addition, a number of other GOP senators have publicly expressed concerns with the AHCA, without explicitly saying that they would vote no.