Five-and-a-half weeks after a House vote on the American Health Care Act— a.k.a. Trumpcare — was canceled despite all sorts of bully-boy threats and upbeat talk from the White House and GOP congressional leaders, they are all at the crossroads again. And again, the talk is optimistic (notably Gary Cohn’s claim yesterday that they had the votes to pass the revised version, a.k.a. Zombie Trumpcare), but the confirmed numbers are significantly less promising.
According to a New York Times compilation of whip counts from five news organizations, the bill that cannot afford to lose more than 22 House votes has already lost somewhere between 20 (HuffPost and NBC News) and 22 (The Hill). The calculation of undecided votes varies more from source to source, from NBC’s 16 to The Hill’s 57. HuffPost lists eight as “Lean No,” separate from ten listed as “Undecided.” A majority of the dissenters are what is often called “centrists” or “moderates,” but there are House Freedom Caucus holdouts as well.
White House and leadership sources, of course, are talking an upbeat game, but they did last time as well. This week’s most surprising announcement was that Representative Billy Long of Missouri, who supported the original AHCA, will vote against the revised version because it undermines protections for people with preexisting conditions. Long is a conventional conservative from a very safe Republican district, which gave him 68 percent of the vote in 2016, and Trump 70 percent. He is precisely the kind of House Republican who should be in the bag for Ryan on this bill. But he’s not.
There are more positive assessments of the situation, including this one from the well-sourced Robert Costa:
Timing is another issue: The House is supposed to take a weeklong break on Thursday, but could push that off or cancel it to continue another health-care push. It is not a good sign, however, that Republican leaders fear sending their members home on the brink of this vote. In addition, the longer the vote is delayed, the more vulnerable it might become to a horrendous “score” from the Congressional Budget Office.
The really depressing fact for the GOP is that even if this bill gets out of the House, its prospects in the Senate are terrible, with one knowledgeable source saying there are only 25 senators who would vote for it at present. That means House members voting for Zombie Trumpcare really have no idea what the final product will look line down the road. A “no” vote may look like the safer option.