Politics

Even GOP Whip Team Undecided on Health Care

Despite leaders' comments, lack of unity from vote counters

House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., foreground, is optimistic about the health care vote, but not even all the members of his whip team are on board. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BY LINDSEY MCPHERSON AND ERIN MERSHON

House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina said Monday evening that Republicans are “very close” to winning the support needed to pass their health care overhaul. One place he might want to look: his own whip team. At least seven members said Monday they remain undecided.

That list includes Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, David Valadao of California, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Some of those members, a fraction of the roughly 100-person whip team, said they would have supported the version Republicans had planned to vote on in March before leaders canceled the vote because it lacked the support to pass. A recent amendment, which Rules Committee Republicans have yet to officially add to the bill, won over the majority of conservatives but hardened moderate opposition and even created some uncertainty among lawmakers who had backed the bill.

According to a CQ Roll Call count, 20 lawmakers are opposed to the legislation, which means leaders need to convince the vast majority of the undecided members to support the bill if they want it to pass. Republicans can lose just 22 votes on the package, assuming full attendance, and still pass it.

Many of the undecided members said they would be willing to support it if leadership really needed their vote, according to Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, a whip team member who has endorsed the bill.

“I think we have the votes,” Barton said. While the official whip count has not been shared with him, he said his three decades of experience in Congress helped him read the pulse of the conference.

Barton said he has personally whipped moderate members who moved from “no” to “yes” on the bill but declined to identify how many or who those members are.

The members CQ Roll Call has confirmed as opposed are: Reps. Mark Amodei of Nevada, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Ryan A. Costello of Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, Jeff Denham of California, Dan Donovan of New York, John Katko of New York, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Frank A. Lobiondo of New Jersey, Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, Billy Long of Missouri, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Daniel Webster of Florida and David Young of Iowa.

While Webster and Denham are among the “no” votes, both suggested they could get to “yes” with additional changes that would address specific needs in their states.

Despite the growing list of “no” and “undecided” members at the Capitol, White House officials, including National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, told CBS earlier Monday the vote would happen this week.

President Donald Trump himself, in an interview with Bloomberg News, promised the bill would ultimately protect pre-existing conditions as well as the 2010 health care law. His comments appeared to be aimed at the moderate holdouts, who have criticized the latest amendment for weakening those protections.

Vice President Mike Pence visited the Capitol Monday and met with several lawmakers, including Diaz-Balart and Barton. It was unclear how many of the meetings were focused on health care.

Diaz-Balart said he had a good meeting with Pence but otherwise declined to comment, saying he was focused on the spending package that the House will debate this week. Barton said he and Pence spoke “a little bit“ on health care but most of their meeting was focused on other topics.

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