Representative Dennis Ross of Florida, a senior member of the House vote-counting team, said they are about “five votes away” from the number needed to pass the bill…
“[Kevin] McCarthy said look, this will define us. It’s no longer about what we should do or how we should do it. Now is the time to do it,” said Ross, quoting the No. 2 House Republican.
“We’re just a handful of votes away,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Tuesday.
Three different whip counts — Bloomberg’s, CNN’s, and the NYT’s — have 21 House Republicans intent on voting no as of noon ET with more than a dozen still undecided, leaving the bill on the brink of failure. Ryan can only afford to lose 22 members of his own caucus or else he’ll have to scrape together some Democrats, which no one believes is possible. There’s no floor vote scheduled either, as you might expect if the leadership really was within a few votes of victory. There may be a bloc of verrrrrry reluctant moderate Republicans who’d like to vote no but are reluctant yays if Ryan can flip a few of the nays — especially influential ones like Fred Upton, who spent years working on health-care policy as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee but is voting no on the current bill because it’s too thin on protecting coverage for people with preexisting conditions. In that sense, Ryan may be simultaneously within a few votes of a majority and at risk of losing by 40 votes if he brought the bill to the floor right now.
Maybe it’s time for a new approach, which we’ll call the “hot potato” strategy. Why not … just pass the farking bill and let the Senate worry about what comes next? No one expects this to become law in its current form. Just hand the potato to Mitch McConnell. Even some Senate Republicans are wondering why it’s taken so long:
The aim has become very simple for House Republicans stumbling closer to passing a bill to revise the Affordable Care Act: just get it off their plates and over to the Senate…
“If you’re in the House, what you should be thinking now is that if it doesn’t survive, it all comes back to you,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “I think what they should be focused on is getting the process moving and, frankly, passing the obligation over to the Senate.”…
“The House has to pass a bill,” said [Sen. Bill] Cassidy, who has written a replacement bill that retains much of the Affordable Care Act. “It’ll go to conference committee. I’m sure the administration will be involved. There will be two other times when what the White House is advocating can be addressed.”
The risk with the “hot potato” approach is that a yay vote for a bad bill leaves you having to defend that bill next fall, whether it goes anywhere in the Senate or not. But we’re far enough away from the midterms that some reluctant House Republicans might be willing to hold their noses and take a tough vote now, especially if they have reason to think that the final bill will be improved by a conference committee with the Senate. Worst-case scenario: They vote yes on something this week that dies ignominiously in Congress with voters none the worse for wear. If the final bill is as bad as the current one, they can always vote no on that when the time comes.
Here’s today’s unlikely viral video on health care — Jimmy Kimmel talking about how his newborn son needed emergency surgery for a heart defect, and how a middle-class family in the same situation wouldn’t have been able to get insurance to cover that until just a few years ago. That pitch is worth more to Democrats than a hundred attack ads, and it shows you why even a Republican name as big as Fred Upton is staying away from the AHCA and its “community rating” waivers for states. Exit question via Philip Klein: Why is Upton suddenly against lifting “community rating” regulations now when he was a fan of doing so before?