Health care talks see progress though path forward unclear

Trump calls for healthcare vote again
Trump calls for healthcare vote again

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Story highlights

  • Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat says there are a "few pretty significant amendments"
  • Brat said the failure of the first attempt at Obamacare repeal was because "something in the swamp said no"

Washington (CNN)The President and some Republican lawmakers say they're seeing progress in their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, though other GOP House members say they don't know what's in the new health care plan and there's no clear path to enough votes to advance the legislation.

Behind-the-scenes leader of the moderate Tuesday Group Tom MacArthur and chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows have come to an agreement they hope can bridge the divide. But there is no evidence their plan can garner a significant enough number of members to get to the 216 votes needed to get a repeal of Obamacare across the finish line in the chamber.
Complicating negotiations: The priority for congressional Republicans is funding the government next week ahead of a government shutdown deadline next Friday, not driving toward a health care vote in the House.
    Their plan would give states more flexibility to opt out of several Obamacare insurance regulations -- primarily those that protect those with pre-existing conditions, but also push up premiums. That's not likely to garner more support from moderates, who already feared the House's Obamacare repeal bill was too conservative.
    Freedom Caucus member Rep. Dave Brat told CNN's "New Day" Friday that he's optimistic about the latest attempt at health care reform negotiations between the White House and Congress, saying there have been a "few pretty significant amendments" to earlier proposals that have opened the door to a deal.
    The Virginia Republican conceded that the Freedom Caucus is "still waiting on the official text" of the deal, but claimed that "we have language" to address both lowering premiums and providing coverage for pre-existing conditions.
    "It allows the states to opt out of the (regulations) to bring down the price," he said, adding, "Those are two of the big pieces, a couple little pieces on the regulatory framework, and then we can all get to yes. That is the goal."
    But other Republicans have expressed skepticism related to progress on the health care front, pointing to the hurdle of an internal divide between moderate and conservative GOP House members that stalled the initial attempt to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's signature legislation.
    Speaking after Brat's comments, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois said negotiators are still talking.
    "I wish I knew what was in this so-called deal," Davis told CNN's "New Day." "We're still negotiating."
    One GOP aide also told CNN that the "legislative language is still being workshopped and there is no deadline for finalizing it."
    A Republican congressman who was undecided on the Ryan-Trump health care bill last month said if a deal is being worked out on health care, members are in the dark.
    "I don't know anything about it. All I know is what I've seen on television," the congressman said, who didn't want to make trouble by speaking on the record about healthcare. "Part of it is an attempt to create an illusion that things are moving. Because otherwise, more people would be aware."
    The congressman also said it's clear "the White House definitely wants something done."
    But based on what he's seen about the deal that Meadows and MacArthur are trying to strike, he said: "I don't what it could be that could be the silver bullet."
    If there is no deadline for a releasing legislation to the rest of the House GOP caucus, any talk of moving on this rapidly appears a bit premature. GOP House leadership aides continue to caution that they are not planning for a vote and can't determine timing until they figure out whether this latest compromise has broad support.
    The health care bill seems stuck in a cycle in which the White House hopes it will progress into existence by announcing it is growing closer to a final deal while Hill Republicans remain cautiously optimistic, but painfully aware that internal conference divisions that derailed the bill in the first place have not gone away.
    But pressure is mounting for Hill Republicans who have yet to deliver on one of President Donald Trump's signature campaign promises. Trump's first 100 days are quickly coming to a close and there is motivation from the White House that the Hill acts fast.
    Still, there is no guarantee that the math of health care will change any time soon. Members are expected to hold a conference call Saturday to discuss a wide variety of issues including health care -- as well as efforts to pass a spending bill.
    Brat said he expects the new plan will "lower the price of health care" using "free markets as much as we can." It would allow states to relax some of the Obamacare mandates on insurers -- primarily the requirement they provide comprehensive coverage and they charge all consumers the same regardless of health status. Conservatives argue this will give people more choice and lower premiums, but consumer advocates say these changes will hurt those with pre-existing conditions.
    He added that "this is still a federal government structure, not totally happy with that outcome, but said "it at least cracks the door open to states having some ability to opt out of some of the insurance regulations."
    "Secondly," Brat said, the still-emerging proposal "lets health care return to the states." It would allow states to apply for waivers to get out of some federal Obamacare rules.