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Vote on Obamacare replacement bill postponed

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Republicans on Thursday postponed a planned vote on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act after the legislation failed to garner enough support from conservative Republicans.

The widely anticipated vote is now scheduled for this morning, but it still wasn’t clear late Thursday that Republicans had the 216 votes needed to pass the bill in the House. The legislation faces an even steeper climb in the Senate, where about a half-dozen moderate Republicans have vowed to oppose it.

About two dozen House GOP conservatives in the Freedom Caucus, including Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., met with Trump at the White House on Thursday morning for a last-minute sales pitch from the president. The Freedom Caucus was pushing for changes in the bill that would rescind “essential health benefits,” such as maternity care and mental health coverage, mandated under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But if the so-called essential health benefits are stripped, the bill would likely lose support from moderate Republicans and would still be in jeopardy. House Democrats, including Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, are largely united in opposition to the GOP bill.

Pearce, who told the

Journal late Wednesday that he was unlikely to support the House bill, said Thursday that he wasn’t sure the bill could be changed enough Thursday night to win passage today.

“The position is still that we are looking for repeal of the essential health benefits and … some of the mandates,” said Pearce, who hopes the price of health insurance will come down if insurers are not mandated by law to provide certain coverages.

“If it takes time, let’s get it right and not hurry it. I don’t think anyone (among House Republicans) wants to give up on the bill.”

The sentiment was different on the Democratic side of the House. Democrats contend the bill would cause millions of Americans to lose coverage they have gained under Obamacare.

“President Trump and congressional Republicans hatched a bill in a back room and tried to slip it through the House with no hearings before anyone – even members of their own party – were able to understand the details,” Luján said. “And when those details did come out … President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans got caught pulling a fast one on the American people.”

House Republicans planned to meet behind closed doors Thursday night to consider their next steps. Thursday marked seven years since then-President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

At the White House on Thursday, press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “is looking forward to seeing Republicans fulfill the pledge” they made to repeal Obamacare.