(Corrects 6th paragraph to make clear Messer is not chairman of
the Republican Study Committee)
By David Morgan and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, March 23 U.S. President Donald Trump
made a final push on Thursday to win over skeptical members of
his own Republican Party to begin dismantling Obamacare in the
House of Representatives or risk failure on one of his top
The effort is seen by financial markets as a crucial test of
Trump's ability to work with Congress to deliver on his agenda,
including planned tax cuts. Republican leaders hoped to vote on
the healthcare bill on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of
former Democratic President Barack Obama signing his healthcare
Although Republicans have a majority in the House, Democrats
are united against the bill and Trump and House Speaker Paul
Ryan, who has championed the bill, can afford to lose only 21
Republican votes. On Thursday morning, MSNBC said a count by NBC
News showed that 30 Republicans were planning to vote "no" or
leaning that way.
Trump met at the White House on Thursday morning with some
of the bill's strongest opponents - members of the conservative
House Freedom Caucus who say it does not go far enough to undo
"We're still open for negotiations," Representative Ted
Yoho, a member of the group, told CNN before the meeting. "There
is still time."
Republican Representative Luke Messer, a member of the House
leadership, said after a meeting with Ryan they were still
hoping to hold a vote on Thursday but were awaiting the outcome
of Trump’s meeting with the Freedom Caucus. Messer said he
expected the chamber to go ahead with a planned evening vote.
Trump urged Americans in a tweet early on Thursday to press
their representatives to vote for the bill, known formally as
the American Health Care Act.
Uncertainty over the bill has rattled financial markets and
a failure just two months into Trump's presidency would be a
setback for the White House, which as late as Wednesday said
there was "no Plan B" for the healthcare measure.
U.S. stock markets have risen steadily in recent months on
optimism over a pro-business Trump agenda but fell back sharply
on Tuesday as investors worried that failure to push through the
healthcare bill could have a knock-on effect on other Trump
priorities such as tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
U.S. stocks were higher in late morning trading on Thursday
as investors snapped up beaten-down bank stocks but remained
cautious because of the healthcare bill.
"Investors are concerned ... if this vote goes poorly, then
what are the implications for tax reform and repatriation of
offshore capital," said John Traynor, chief investment officer
at People's United Bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
BALANCING CONSERVATIVES, MODERATES
The normally well-scripted House, which runs on tight rules
that lay out the duration of debates on legislation and
approximate times for votes, was anything but scripted on
The Rules Committee, which is the gatekeeper for all
legislation heading to the House floor, had not yet set the
parameters of the debate, including any amendments that would be
allowed. Republicans still did not know exactly what would be in
An aide to a senior moderate House Republican told Reuters
that negotiations were continuing and that there were particular
concerns about how the legislation handles low-income
constituents between the ages of 50 and 64.
If certain provisions were added or removed from the bill to
please the House Freedom Caucus, the leadership would lose the
support of moderates, the aide said.
"With the HFC (House Freedom Caucus) at the White House now,
who knows what they’ll do to the bill," said the aide, who asked
not to be identified.
Republican control of the White House, the Senate and the
House has given the party a chance to achieve what it has aimed
to do for seven years - overturn Obama's 2010 Affordable Care
The law aimed to boost the number of Americans with health
insurance through mandates on individuals and employers, and
income-based subsidies. Some 20 million Americans gained
insurance coverage through the law.
The House replacement plan would rescind the taxes created
by Obamacare, repeal a penalty against people who do not buy
coverage, slash funding for the Medicaid program for the poor
and disabled, and modify tax subsidies that help individuals buy
But while conservative Republicans are pushing for more
aggressive cuts to Obamacare mandates, some moderates in the
party are worried that the legislation would hit some of their
core voters by depriving them of insurance.
Changes to the bill to satisfy conservatives would carry the
risk of turning moderates against it, and also of complicating
the work of their colleagues in the Senate.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated 14
million people would lose medical coverage under the Republican
plan by next year. It also said 24 million fewer people would be
insured by 2026.
Before Trump's meeting on Thursday with Freedom Caucus
Republicans, the White House sought to convey optimism.
“We are moving full steam ahead," said White House
spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. "President and his team talking to
members letting them know this is the bill to repeal and replace
Obamacare and today is the day to get it done."
Graphic on Obamacare and Republican healthcare bill (tmsnrt.rs/2n0ZMKf)
Graphic on shifting positions in the U.S. Senate on
Republican healthcare bill (tmsnrt.rs/2mUE4Xf)
Graphic on poll on Americans' views of the Republican
healthcare bill ( tmsnrt.rs/2n7f3e4)
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Susan Cornwell, Jeff
Mason, Doina Chiacu, Steve Holland and Richard Cowan; Writing by
Frances Kerry; Editing by Michael Perry and Bill Trott)