President Donald Trump is again trying to drum up support among Republicans in the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act after his first attempt failed in March.
Yet despite changes to the legislation aimed at appeasing skeptical conservatives, it’s uncertain whether the president can win over enough moderate GOP lawmakers — including the two Republicans from Western Washington — to pass the measure.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, isn’t on board with the latest version of the bill, known as the American Health Care Act, according to her office. Supporters hope the measure will get a vote this week.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, so far is undecided on the retooled legislation, he said in an emailed statement, although he did not specify any concerns with the measure.
Reichert’s vote is particularly crucial: Republicans can lose only 22 votes to pass a new health care law because no Democrats are expected to support the measure. The Associated Press on Wednesday counted 21 Republicans opposing the bill and at least 11 lawmakers undecided.
Though Reichert is on the fence, he resisted the lobbying efforts of Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan this week, said Reichert’s spokeswoman Breanna Deutsch, in an email.
Trump spoke to Reichert on the phone while Pence met with the congressman for about half an hour to try and win his support, Deutsch said. Ryan talked with Reichert on the House floor.
Some members of the state’s delegation plan to vote for the bill, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane. She says it eventually would reduce health-care premiums and eliminate a requirement that people buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.
“It is our priority to move a health-care bill out of the House and rescue people from what is a failing law,” she told Fox News on Sunday.
Even so, Herrera Beutler and Reichert are proving a tough sell. They held essentially the same positions when the first bill stalled.
Herrera Beutler said at the time the measure would not have sufficiently protected children insured through the Medicaid program for low-income people.
Her spokeswoman Amy Pennington wrote in an email Wednesday that Herrera Beutler is “still a “no” on the bill until she can be positive that it will improve access to affordable quality health care, and that vulnerable children will be protected.”
Reichert did support the first version of the bill in a committee vote and defended it after a nonpartisan report said millions of Americans no longer would have health insurance if it passed.
He told The Seattle Times that a Congressional Budget Office report came with positives: The bill eventually would have reduced premiums and the federal deficit.
He also opposes the individual insurance requirement as government overreach. Democrats say it’s necessary to keep young, healthy people in the insurance pool to balance out older people who typically need more health care.
Reichert eventually had second thoughts about the bill ahead of a possible floor vote, saying he was unsure whether he would support it because of late changes to the legislation. He then applauded House leaders for withdrawing the measure.
The initial version of the bill has since been adjusted to pick up support from conservative members of the House who split from the legislation.
The revamp would let states opt out of two provisions of Obamacare: One requires individual insurance plans cover a spate of “essential health benefits” such as maternity care. The other blocks insurers from charging different rates to healthy and sick customers.
The changes could alienate some moderate Republicans who worry the tweaks would weaken protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Reichert didn’t comment specifically on the tweaks, but noted “any new plan must protect our communities’ most vulnerable, including patients with pre-existing conditions, while offering families more affordable choices that meet their needs.”
The new bill has drawn the ire of leading Democrats in Washington state, including Gov. Jay Inslee, who consistently has attacked efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Congress has succeeded in making a bad bill worse,” he said in a news release last week.
More than 750,000 people in Washington state have gained health coverage because of Obamacare, mostly from an expansion of Medicaid in the law, according to the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
Inslee has said the state can’t backfill the cuts to federal dollars in the GOP health bills, which could result in people losing their insurance.
There hasn’t been a new Congressional Budget Office report on the updated GOP plan. The report on the March version of the bill estimated 21 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2020 compared with predictions under Obamacare.
That 21 million includes some who would opt not to have health insurance if the individual mandate were deleted. The report said the new legislation eventually would reduce the federal deficit and result in lower premiums.
McMorris Rodgers told Fox News she’s optimistic the GOP can rally enough votes to pass repeal legislation soon. Although the party might have to do so without all of its Washington state delegation.