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Trump team steps in on health care

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 10:42 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and his inner circle are furiously courting the leaders of two key conservative factions in the House as dozens of Republicans still have serious concerns about the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“Frankly, I don't know that we are overly confident that the votes are there to move this through the House at this point,” U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, head of the Republican Study Committee, said in an interview Monday. “There are a few things that are still concerns with some of our members.”

Walker and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-S.C., head of the Freedom Caucus, think the Republican plan to repeal and replace President Obama's health care law can go nowhere without the blessing of Congress' most conservative members.

With the bill scheduled for the House floor Thursday, Republican leaders must get Meadows, Walker and their constituencies on board. A review of lawmakers' statements on Ryan's plan shows the legislation close to failure. Just 21 Republican “no” votes would sink the bill, and about two dozen have indicated they are leaning against it.

Meanwhile, Walker estimated that 30 to 40 Republicans, both hard-line conservatives and moderates, still have serious concerns about House Speaker Paul Ryan's proposal. Trump plans to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to make another appeal for support.

The Freedom Caucus, the smaller of the two groups, with about 30 members, has enough power to run the health care bill aground even if some of its members wind up supporting it. The Republican Study Committee is much larger, with nearly 170 members.

No Democrats are expected to support the bill.

One criticism from the hard right is that Ryan's proposal doesn't go far enough to permanently unwind health care regulations introduced by the Affordable Care Act. Other conservatives condemn a Republican-proposed tax credit to help individuals pay for coverage, saying it amounts to a substitute for the current law's subsidy for low-income people.

The complaints — with Walker and Meadows leading the charge — have already prompted House Republicans to slow down long enough for more debate and changes.

The Republican Study Committee has pushed for amendments to the bill, including federal block grants for states to administer Medicaid programs with fewer regulations, adding work requirements for some Medicaid recipients who don't have physical disabilities and limiting health savings account tax-credit money from being spent for abortions.

“The caveat for us signing off on this is we have to see the language of these adjustments,” Walker said. “We're in constant conversation with Ryan's office. This went on all weekend, back-and-forth discussions.”

Meanwhile, Meadows over the weekend went to Trump's Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, the latest sign that he has been accepted as a sort of spokesman for right-wing concerns with the House bill. A Meadows spokesman didn't give details about the meeting with senior Trump staffers.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was also there. He said Sunday on CBS's “Face the Nation,” that he, Meadows and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, were negotiating with Trump's team over the health care bill, without being specific.

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