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Freedom Caucus holds out on Trump's efforts to pass healthcare bill

If more than 22 Republicans vote against the American Health Care Act, the legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare will not pass.

By Danielle Haynes
Freedom Caucus holds out on Trump's efforts to pass healthcare bill
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to attendees at a women in healthcare panel in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Wednesday. Trump's efforts to push Republican members of the House of Representatives to vote for the American Health Care Act may have fallen short after more than two dozen members of the Freedom Caucus revealed they planned to vote against it. Pool photo by Mark Wilson/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's efforts this week to press the House of Representatives to pass the Republican Obamacare replacement plan may fall short after a key group of conservative lawmakers said they plan to vote against the bill.

A spokeswoman for the Freedom Caucus tweeted Wednesday afternoon that more than 25 members plan to vote against the American Health Care Act.

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"Group says 'start over,' " Alyssa Farah tweeted.

The bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act -- former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law -- is scheduled to go to vote in the House on Thursday. It needs 215 votes to pass, meaning it cannot lose more than 22 Republican votes.

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"If the vote were today, the bill would fail," Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Al., said according to CNBC.

Several Republican members of Congress have been critical of the bill, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who called it "Obamacare lite."

The chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said his main objection is that the GOP bill does not lower premiums for most Americans.

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"I'm still hopeful we can change the bill -- I'll continue working around the clock to do so," Meadows tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "But I cannot support the AHCA as it stands."

Members of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus have been courted heavily by Trump, who visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to persuade the House to pass the AHCA. He warned House Republicans they could lose control of Congress if they didn't approve the bill Thursday.

"I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done," Trump told members of the party behind closed doors.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan said he agreed with Trump's assessment.

"The president was really clear, he laid it on the lines for everybody: We made a promise, now is the time to keep that promise, and we need to keep our promise and the people will reward us," he said.

"If we don't keep our promise, it will be very hard to manage this."

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On Wednesday, Trump attended a women in healthcare panel led by Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. When asked by a reporter if he'll keep pushing the AHCA if the House doesn't pass it this week, he said "We'll see what happens."

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In an effort to win over conservative Republicans, the leadership announced several amendments on Monday night.

They agreed to allow states to require Medicaid recipients to show proof of work and let the states choose a Medicaid block grant over the cap system. Also, the Obamacare taxes for those who don't get insurance would phase out this year instead of 2018.

To please moderates, Medicaid allotments for older and disabled beneficiaries would increase faster than inflation. Also, the bill will allow the Senate to craft more generous tax credits for people age 50-64.

Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.

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