The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, has announced that he will vote no on the American Health Care Act, the GOP proposal to replace the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.
Frelinghuysen's announcement arrives the day House Republicans are set to vote on the health care bill after delaying it a day earlier. President Donald Trump has asserted that if GOP lawmakers do not pass the legislation this round, he will move on from health care and leave the ACA, also known as Obamacare, in place.
On March 24, Frelinghuysen released an official statement revealing he would vote against the AHCA, citing concerns about how its provisions will impact his constituents. The New Jersey lawmaker's departure is a significant setback for the bill -- many members of Congress take their cues from committee heads, The Huffington Post reports.
"Seven years after enactment of Obamacare, I wanted to support legislation that made positive changes to rescue health care in America," Frelinghuysen said. "Unfortunately, the legislation before the House today is currently unacceptable as it would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituent in New Jersey. In addition to the loss of Medicaid coverage for so many people in my Medicaid-dependent state, the denial of essential health benefits in the individual market raise serious coverage and cost issues," Frelinghuysen added.
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House Democrats are expected to unanimously vote against the AHCA, meaning that the bill will not pass if 22 or more House Republicans vote no.
Lawmakers were slated to decide on the legislation on March 23, but House leadership delayed the vote because it did not have enough Republican support. That evening, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door meeting that Trump would opt to leave the ACA intact if they did not vote to pass the AHCA by the next day, The Hill reports.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have been the most vocally opposed to the GOP proposal, asserting that it does not go far enough in repealing the ACA. That evening, the House leadership introduced three new amendments to the bill to make it more attractive to both Freedom Caucus members and the more moderate Republicans.
The first amendment calls for dismantling the federal requirement that all health plans cover 10 essential health benefits, such as maternity care and mental health treatment. By 2018, states would be left to decide which health benefits their plans should cover.
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The other two amendments would provide states with more federal funding for maternity care and would delay repealing a Medicare tax on citizens making $200,000 or more annually, The Washington Post reports.
On March 24, one Freedom Caucus member stated he would not vote for the AHCA even after the amendments, asserting that the bill still strongly resembles the ACA.
"No, I'm not ready to surrender on an issue as important as Obamacare," Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama told CNBC. "I am going to vote against it because it is one of the worst bills I have seen ... It's very, very bad in a variety of ways."
That same morning, Mulvaney reaffirmed that Trump would not negotiate on the AHCA any further and would walk away from Obamacare repeal if it did not pass that afternoon.
"He's tired of drawn-out negotiations," Mulvaney said. "He's tired of folks always coming up with better ideas, and nitpicking the bill as it is ... he thinks the time has come to a vote."
The House was expected to hold its vote for the AHCA by 4 p.m. on March 24.