Trump's leverage in repeal and replace

House majority whip Rep. Steve Scalise says there is going to be sufficient support to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill in the House.

Scalise's optimism is well placed.  The GOP health insurance bill successfully passed the Energy and Commerce Committee on a party-line vote after a marathon 27-hour markup session.  Scalise believes that this momentum, along with signals from the Trump White House that the president wants to be "directly engaged" in the legislative process, bodes well for eventual passage.

The Hill:

As the House GOP's chief vote-counter, Scalise has a unique perch as Congress – and the rest of Washington – debate the policy details and human impact of the GOP's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. He's responsible for corralling the majority needed to push the bill through the House and over to the Senate, and that's meant holding lots of listening sessions, evaluating different ideas to see if they "add or subtract" to his internal whip count, and asking President Trump to help out whenever possible.

Unlike former President Obama, who was criticized for being standoffish and ignoring lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Trump has told congressional leaders he wants to be "directly engaged" in this process.

The president gave some GOP lawmakers a tour of the Oval Office earlier this week and will host the conservative House Freedom Caucus for pizza and bowling next week.

"He's been very engaged. His staff is very engaged. He wants this bill on his desk," said Scalise, whose deputy whip team met with the president this week about ways to build support.

"He's been very hands on and it's been very helpful."

The vote on the House floor later this month could be a nail-biter and all hands are on deck. Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Thursday shuttled between the Senate and House, meeting with GOP lawmakers who have been critical of the bill.

Asked by The Hill how his healthcare efforts were going, Pence on Thursday replied: "Steady progress!"

This week, the Republican Party appeared to be in an all-out civil war, with conservatives panning the legislation for not fully repealing Obama's signature health law and GOP leaders arguing that the measure represents the best chance to gut it.

But Scalise – sitting in a room where then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln used to warm himself by the fire in between House votes – argued that the current intraparty divisions portrayed in the media are way overblown. The Energy and Commerce markup, he said, revealed the true Democrat-vs.-Republican philosophical battle lines over the nation's healthcare system.

The fact that President Trump has already begun a full court press to obtain passage of a bill almost guarantees that repeal will happen.  Republican politicians know that their electoral fortunes are tied – for better or worse – to the president, and Trump is using this knowledge for maximum leverage. 

And he is demonstrating some of his famous skill at negotiations.  He has let it be known that he is open to changes in the bill that could satisfy most concerns by conservatives in the House, including an earlier repeal of Medicaid expansion (the current bill calls for an end to the program by 2020).

There is still a ways to go to get most conservatives on board.  But the fact that the president himself has taken a hand in the negotiations – unlike most of his recent predecessors, who took a decidedly hands-off approach to relations with Congress – means that Trump is placing his personal imprint on the bill, which should sway most House Republicans in his favor.  It would be unthinkable for House conservatives to derail the Trump presidency so early in his term.

The Senate will be a different story.  Once the CBO scores the GOP bill, almost certainly reporting that millions of Americans will lose their insurance coverage if it passes, we will probably see several vulnerable Republicans head for the hills and refuse to get on board.  This will be President Trump's greatest test as he seeks to find middle ground between the concerns of GOP senators and conservatives in the House.

How he resolves the dispute will say a lot about how his presidency will unfold.

House majority whip Rep. Steve Scalise says there is going to be sufficient support to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill in the House.

Scalise's optimism is well placed.  The GOP health insurance bill successfully passed the Energy and Commerce Committee on a party-line vote after a marathon 27-hour markup session.  Scalise believes that this momentum, along with signals from the Trump White House that the president wants to be "directly engaged" in the legislative process, bodes well for eventual passage.

The Hill:

As the House GOP's chief vote-counter, Scalise has a unique perch as Congress – and the rest of Washington – debate the policy details and human impact of the GOP's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. He's responsible for corralling the majority needed to push the bill through the House and over to the Senate, and that's meant holding lots of listening sessions, evaluating different ideas to see if they "add or subtract" to his internal whip count, and asking President Trump to help out whenever possible.

Unlike former President Obama, who was criticized for being standoffish and ignoring lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Trump has told congressional leaders he wants to be "directly engaged" in this process.

The president gave some GOP lawmakers a tour of the Oval Office earlier this week and will host the conservative House Freedom Caucus for pizza and bowling next week.

"He's been very engaged. His staff is very engaged. He wants this bill on his desk," said Scalise, whose deputy whip team met with the president this week about ways to build support.

"He's been very hands on and it's been very helpful."

The vote on the House floor later this month could be a nail-biter and all hands are on deck. Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Thursday shuttled between the Senate and House, meeting with GOP lawmakers who have been critical of the bill.

Asked by The Hill how his healthcare efforts were going, Pence on Thursday replied: "Steady progress!"

This week, the Republican Party appeared to be in an all-out civil war, with conservatives panning the legislation for not fully repealing Obama's signature health law and GOP leaders arguing that the measure represents the best chance to gut it.

But Scalise – sitting in a room where then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln used to warm himself by the fire in between House votes – argued that the current intraparty divisions portrayed in the media are way overblown. The Energy and Commerce markup, he said, revealed the true Democrat-vs.-Republican philosophical battle lines over the nation's healthcare system.

The fact that President Trump has already begun a full court press to obtain passage of a bill almost guarantees that repeal will happen.  Republican politicians know that their electoral fortunes are tied – for better or worse – to the president, and Trump is using this knowledge for maximum leverage. 

And he is demonstrating some of his famous skill at negotiations.  He has let it be known that he is open to changes in the bill that could satisfy most concerns by conservatives in the House, including an earlier repeal of Medicaid expansion (the current bill calls for an end to the program by 2020).

There is still a ways to go to get most conservatives on board.  But the fact that the president himself has taken a hand in the negotiations – unlike most of his recent predecessors, who took a decidedly hands-off approach to relations with Congress – means that Trump is placing his personal imprint on the bill, which should sway most House Republicans in his favor.  It would be unthinkable for House conservatives to derail the Trump presidency so early in his term.

The Senate will be a different story.  Once the CBO scores the GOP bill, almost certainly reporting that millions of Americans will lose their insurance coverage if it passes, we will probably see several vulnerable Republicans head for the hills and refuse to get on board.  This will be President Trump's greatest test as he seeks to find middle ground between the concerns of GOP senators and conservatives in the House.

How he resolves the dispute will say a lot about how his presidency will unfold.

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