Ryan: "We're getting extremely close" on AHCA

Is the AHCA dead? When Hugh Hewitt asked Paul Ryan that question this morning, the House Speaker immediately answered that it’s actually very much alive — and moving toward resolution. Ryan says that a House vote is now “extremely close,” but Ryan declined to specify when a floor vote might come:

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that Republicans are “extremely close” to having enough votes to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act but would not say whether or not the legislation would come up for a vote this week. …

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the speaker said it was his policy not to comment on when a vote would be held. He also declined to offer a specific whip count on the measure, but said productive negotiations among Republicans are ongoing.

Chad Pergram heard the same thing at a House Republican press briefing, but Pergram hints that he’s not entirely convinced. “Hints” is a term of art, of course. The fact that Pergram starts off his report with an old Soviet Union joke about its unreality seems like more than a hint:

There’s an old joke from the Soviet Union that could help describe the current state of affairs on the GOP’s health care bill.

Soviet leaders Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev are aboard a train in Siberia. The train breaks down. Passengers ask Stalin what to do. Stalin executes the crew, hires a relief crew and gets the train going again. The train stalls again. This time, it’s up to Khrushchev. Khrushchev fires the train crew but pardons them. Khrushchev then brings in yet another crew to restart the train. The train breaks down a third time. So everyone turns to Brezhnev. His solution? “Pull down the window shades and pretend we’re moving.”

Are Republicans getting anywhere? Or are they pretending they’re moving?

In this case, though, the train may be moving. In the same interview, Ryan tells Hugh that Rep. Fred Upton has offered a new amendment that could loop the moderates back into the AHCA without losing any conservatives. CBS reports that the amendment provides $8 billion to backstop coverage for pre-existing conditions by the states, a main concern of moderates after devolving that control to the states:

A respected authority on health care, Upton said the proposal would provide $8 billion over five years to help some people with pre-existing medical conditions pay costly insurance premiums. It comes with many moderates opposing the high-priority legislation, even as GOP leaders press holdouts to back it and push it through the House before the chamber begins a week-long recess scheduled to start Friday.

Upton, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, described the plan to The Associated Press late Tuesday. Hours earlier, he said he was opposing the bill because it weakened insurance protections President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul provides people with pre-existing illnesses.

“It’s not quite a done deed yet, but it addresses many of my concerns,” Upton said of the new proposal.

Assuming that the amendment doesn’t lose conservative support for the AHCA, this might change some of the whip counts that have floated around the Beltway over the last week. That includes Upton’s vote too; he announced his opposition to the AHCA earlier this week, but his amendment would put him right back into the mix. Ryan told Hugh that no one had any problems with Upton’s changes — and if that’s true, a vote might come sooner than later.

Here’s the whole interview with Ryan, with the relevant conversation starting around the 1–minute mark. Prior to that, Ryan lays out the reasons why the budget deal last week was actually a win for Trump and the Republicans, and that Democratic claims of victory are just “spin.” As a bonus, the second clip shows Mick Mulvaney claiming the same thing, with fewer but punchier bullet points. Does avoiding a shutdown altogether constitute a Trump win? If so, why did Trump respond with a shutdown threat in the next round of budget talks? Hugh asks Ryan that question, but Ryan doesn’t have much of an answer for it.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022