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White House Gives Republicans Health Care Ultimatum

The White House and Republican House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have reportedly told House Republicans they may be "stuck with Obamacare" if their health care bill does not pass at the vote scheduled for March 24.

The message comes after the vote was delayed from its original date of March 23, the seventh anniversary of the passing of former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The vote was delayed  because the Republicans reportedly didn't have enough votes to pass the American Health Care Act, PBS reports.

"We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes at this point," said Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. "We are certainly trying to get to yes."

The Freedom Caucus has reportedly tried to push the bill further to the right, leaving more moderate Republicans in the House cold, according to CNN.

Meadows added that the plan to vote for the bill on the anniversary of the ACA was an "artificial deadline."

As talks on the AHCA come down to the wire, President Donald Trump has said he is ready to move on to other issues.

The White House has reportedly decided to end negotiations after spending the day that the vote had been initially scheduled in talks with the Freedom Caucus, "trying to grind them down,"   a source with direct knowledge told CNN.

"This is the final offer," said Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina. "We have a package, they have an offer, and they can accept or reject it."

For the American Health Care Act to pass, no more than 21 Republicans can vote against it, as no Democrats are expected to vote for it. As of a March 24 CNN count, 27 House Republicans have said that they plan to vote against the bill, with four more members of the GOP indicating they may oppose it.

Key to the debate around the health care bill is the ACA's "essential health benefits" provision, which mandates that certain insurers cover services such as maternity, mental health and substance abuse care, as well as prescription drugs.

The provision has made coverage broader, preventing providers from offering low-cost plans that cover fewer services. But it has also reportedly increased premiums, as well as preventing citizens from choosing to purchase less expensive, more limited coverage, a reason that Republicans have sought to repeal Obamacare.

The bill that the House will vote on removes the essential health benefits provision, a decision which has frustrated some lawmakers. The provision's removal is likely to weaken the law's protections for those with pre-existing conditions, as well as allowing insurers to exclude coverage of more expensive services because of fewer requirements.

"A lot of people don't realize what the implications of that are," said one lawmaker. "So we're gonna railroad this thing through and there's going to be even more people pissed off -- our constituents, stakeholders."

Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma has said the vote will be a "test" for Republicans.

"It’s not a test for anyone else," Cole said. "Can you govern? Or are you just an opposition party? We’re a hell of an opposition party but can we be a governing party? I think we can be but tomorrow is a hell of a decisive moment."

Sources: CNN, PBS / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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