AHCA was on a knife edge. Now it may have fallen off

The push to get the AHCA passed out of the House by tonight is starting to look more and more like raising the flag at a NASCAR race before the pace car has shown up. I’m not sure how much sleep the House GOP members are getting these days, but it sounds as if the situation remains both fluid and dubious in terms of giving Trump what he wants and passing this hot potato out of Paul Ryan’s hands. Unfortunately for them, the Freedom Caucus crew doesn’t seem to be all that mollified. (Washington Post)

The Republican health-care overhaul spearheaded by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and backed by President Trump hung in the balance Wednesday, as the White House signaled at the 11th hour a willingness to rework the measure to mollify conservatives.

After insisting for weeks that the changes sought by hard-right members would render the bill unable to pass the Senate, White House officials and GOP House leaders appeared to shift their thinking — and opponents agreed to keep working on a deal with the goal of holding a floor vote in the House by Thursday night.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he had taken personal calls Wednesday from Trump seeking a resolution, although he said no formal offer had been extended by the White House.

The finish line is in sight but I remain unconvinced that the GOP leadership has a big enough boat to make it across at this point. They can only afford to lose 22 Republicans tonight and as of around 8:00 this morning the whip count still stood at 24 definite no votes and at least a half dozen others leaning in that direction. One of the more notable dissenters was Thomas Massie of Kentucky. As The Hill reported, he had previously called the AHCA a “pile of garbage” but tweeted to his followers last night that he was changing his vote. Paul Ryan probably shouldn’t get his hopes up though.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) on Wednesday said he is changing his vote on the GOP ObamaCare replacement bill — sort of.

Amid a pressure campaign by House GOP leadership and the White House to get more Republicans to vote “yes,” Massie tweeted that he is changing his vote from “no” to “hell no.”

If we’re lucky, today will be the day when we get some clarity as to exactly what the House leadership think they are doing. Is the goal simply to get a bill passed out of the lower chamber so Ryan can wipe his hands of it, declare his part of the process finished and dump it on Mitch McConnell’s head? If so, the bill dies there anyway as things stand. The Freedom Caucus conservatives don’t want Obamacare Lite with their name on it (and for good reason) so they want all of those regulations, including the “enhanced health benefits” (EHBs) flushed out before they will consider coming on board. But the Republicans in the Senate aren’t willing to go there. Allahpundit gave a great explanation last night of how complicated it would be to try to pull that off during reconciliation (which should technically only apply to budgetary measures unless the Parliamentarian can be convinced to “bend” the rule a bit) so I don’t see how the Senators go for it.

But the House might not even give them the chance. The conservatives in the House are under all sorts of pressure and it’s not all coming from Trump and Paul Ryan. In case you didn’t hear, the Koch Brothers are setting up an emergency fund in the millions of dollars to make available to struggling Republicans in the mid-terms. But there’ a catch… you can only get the cash if you vote no on the AHCA. (CNN)

In a last-minute effort to sink the Republican health care bill, a powerful network of conservative donors said Wednesday it would create a new fund for Republican 2018 reelection races — but they’ll only open it up to GOPers who vote against the bill.

The advocacy groups helmed by Charles and David Koch have unveiled a new pool of money for advertisements, field programs and mailings that would exclude those who vote for the health care bill they oppose on Thursday. The effort, which they described as worth millions of dollars, is an explicit warning to on-the-fence Republicans from one of the most influential players in electoral politics not to cross them.

Nothing like a nice, fat reserve of campaign money to stiffen the spine, eh? Most of these folks from deep red districts were in the camp promising to rip Obamacare out “root and branch” for the past few cycles. This is their moment in the sun and if they don’t pull it off now (or if they simply vote for the AHCA) then they’re going to be facing an ugly situation when they go back home.

Will there be a vote tonight? If there isn’t, particularly given all the political capital that both Trump and Ryan have dumped into this deadline, then the AHCA may be dead. If so… what then? The Senate won’t repeal Obamacare with no replacement, so the task may wind up proving impossible. I’m reminded yet again of all the conservatives who were shouting from the rooftops about this back when the package was first passed through a Democrat controlled Congress and sent to Obama’s desk. Once a new entitlement program is in place it become impossible to eliminate it.

I wonder if the conventional wisdom will prove true yet again.

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