There’s a fight for the future of the Republican Party — and the battle lines are being drawn between President Donald Trump and hardliner conservative politicians.
Trump and House leaders are entangled in a civil war with balky conservatives and other Republican lawmakers as crunch time approaches on the party’s health care overhaul bill, a drive GOP leaders concede they can’t afford to lose.
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A day before the House planned votes on the measure, Trump was expected to continue hunting support for what would be a significant achievement for his young presidency. But underscoring the bill’s uncertain fate, a senior administration official said that 20 to 25 House Republicans remained opposed or undecided. That’s a grave figure since united Democratic opposition means the measure crashes if 22 GOP lawmakers vote “no.”
“If we keep our promise, people will reward us,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, who backs Trump, told reporters Tuesday of GOP vows to demolish former President Barack Obama’s health care law that the GOP has assailed since its enactment in 2010. “If we don’t keep our promise, it will be very hard to manage this,” the speaker said.
“Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks,” Trump told lawmakers at a closed-door Capitol meeting with House Republicans. He warned they’d face widespread defeats in next year’s elections and possible loss of control of the chamber if the measure failed.
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Trump’s remarks and the White House nose count of votes were each described by Republicans who provided inside information on condition of anonymity.
Emerging from the meeting at the Capitol, New York Rep. Chris Collins said Trump told Republicans he would campaign for them if they backed the bill. Trump didn’t indicate what he would do to those who vote against the bill, but during that meeting, he singled out North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, an outspoken critic of the bill.
Collins said Trump asked Meadows to stand up, called him a great guy and said he is counting on Meadows to get this over the line.
Another person at the event said Trump told Meadows, “I’m gonna come after you so hard.” Trump delivered that line with a smile, but it was also lined with a touch of seriousness, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.
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The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and shrink the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the statute has expanded. It would provide tax credits for medical bills, though generally skimpier than the aid Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposes on high-income people and health industry companies.
The House Rules committee, usually tightly controlled by GOP leadership, was meeting Wednesday to set the terms of debate.
At least a dozen of the House’s most conservative lawmakers and a smattering of GOP moderates have said they oppose the Republican bill.
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Many conservatives are demanding that the bill void Obama’s restrictions on insurers, which they say drive up premiums. Moderates’ concerns include a worry that the measure would snatch insurance from many voters — a week after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would toss 24 million off coverage in a decade.
“We’re repealing Democrats’ over-regulation of one-sixth of our economy with Republican over-regulation, just not quite as much,” said Iowa Rep. Rod Blum.
The Associated Press contributed to this article