White House ‘confident’ about health care vote despite delay

·White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — The White House said a House floor vote on the GOP health care bill was postponed simply for scheduling reasons on Thursday and officials remain “confident” it will pass. Shortly after news of the delay broke, White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the vote was put off to avoid holding it in the wee hours of Friday morning.

“We are going to start the debate tonight on the vote as planned,” Sanders said. “Most likely due to the length of the debate, we will move the vote to tomorrow morning so that we do not end up voting at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Sanders’ comments contrasted with statements from top GOP aides and officials on Capitol Hill who said they were unsure a vote would take place tomorrow. One House Republican leadership aide told Yahoo News they “don’t know when it’ll happen.” In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans “hope” the vote will take place on Friday but are not sure. He indicated representatives will “start the debate” tomorrow morning.

The bill has faced opposition from both Democrats and conservative Republicans. President Trump has personally lobbied for the bill, and he met with reluctant members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus at the White House on Thursday morning. Shortly before the delay was announced, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in his daily briefing that the vote would absolutely begin Thursday night as scheduled.

Sanders said Republicans knew the debate on the bill would “go on” a long while and didn’t want to have the vote take place late at night “out of respect for Congress.” A reporter pressed her on whether the delay is “just a scheduling/sleep/convenience thing” or “a concern that there’s not enough votes” to pass the bill. Sanders joked that the White House simply doesn’t want reporters to lose sleep.

President Trump (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
President Trump (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

“It’s for you guys because we don’t want you to have to be up at 3 in the morning,” she quipped, adding, “No. It’s for scheduling purposes so nobody has to be up at 3 o’clock in the morning for a vote.”

Sanders was also asked if the White House expects further changes in the bill and whether Trump is willing to make any additional concessions to draw more votes from the Freedom Caucus.

“Look, we’re having conversations about the bill as we have been over the last several days. Our position hasn’t changed on that, if people have things to make the bill better, we’re open to that,” said Sanders. “But at this point, like we’ve said, this is the bill, this is the vote, and it will take place tomorrow morning.”

Sanders said the White House is “confident” there will be enough votes to pass the bill.

“We are talking to the members and we know where our votes are and we’re confident that we’ll get there,” she explained.

A reporter pressed her on whether the White House is currently certain there are enough votes.

“I’m not going to give you a vote count, but I’m saying that we’re very confident that the bill will pass tomorrow morning,” said Sanders.

In his interview with CNN, McCarthy was also asked if he believes there are enough votes to pass the bill.

“When we bring it to the floor, we’ll have the votes,” McCarthy said.

Trump’s schedule is clear for the rest of Thursday, and Sanders was asked if she expects him to be making calls to drum up support for the bill through the evening.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is continuing to make calls throughout the night,” she said.

Additional reporting contributed by Olivier Knox.

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