A renewed effort by the White House and GOP leaders in Congress to bridge an internal Republican divide on health care continued to struggle for success on Capitol Hill, as meetings that stretched late on Tuesday night failed to bring about an agreement on how best to overhaul the Obama health law.
“Good talks, good progress,” was how Vice President Mike Pence characterized an evening of meetings with GOP lawmakers from all sides of the Republican political spectrum in the House – but the end point was the same – no agreement.
“At this point, I think it’s all about negotiating in good faith and ironing out differences,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of more conservative lawmakers that has resisted efforts by President Donald Trump to have them back a GOP health bill.
“Everybody wants it to be done – I would have loved to have had it done last week,” Meadows told reporters on Tuesday.
While it was clearly a long shot, the goal of this latest flurry of negotiations was to strike a deal, and allow for a vote later this week, before Congress goes on an Easter break. That did not happen.
There had been some talk in the halls of the Capitol about delaying the upcoming recess in order to focus on health care, but that seems unlikely. Lawmakers won’t be in session in Washington for the next two weeks, as they will return on April 24.
More Republican health care talks are planned for Wednesday.
The negotiations have been centering on several different items, which include:
+ States would be allowed to apply for waivers to change the “Essential Health Benefits” in the Obama health law, which would be required in health insurance plans being sold to consumers. Backers say that would mean the ability to sell less expensive coverage plans.
+ States would also be allowed to seek an exemption from what is known as “community rating” – which would allow insurance companies to get around the requirement in the Obama health law that people with pre-existing medical conditions be charged the same as healthy people.
+ Also being discussed, funneling extra money into what’s known as “state stability funds” to help balance the insurance risk pools.
“People are coming up with all sorts of new, creative proposals that are constructive,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), a Freedom Caucus member who has not supported GOP health care plans yet.
But as lawmakers left the Capitol late Tuesday night, there was no legislative text for any new items in the GOP health care bill, and without that type of detail, there can be no talk of an agreement.
Watching from the sidelines, Democrats did their best to lob a few verbal grenades at the GOP.
“Translation: not happening anytime soon,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).