Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus emerged after a closed-door meeting late Tuesday emphasizing the new GOP repeal plan has no chance of passage in the House in its current form.
The stance was taken after President Trump and Vice President Pence sought to get Republicans to unite on the American Health Care Act, a bill released late Monday by House leadership that repeals parts of Obamacare and partially replaces it. A top White House official also reportedly told the Freedom Caucus conservatives that the White House is open to negotiations on the bill.
Caucus members were pessimistic about the AHCA’s chances of final passage after a rocky day in which the White House and GOP leadership sought to quell conservative uprisings.
“As things stand right now the speaker is going to need a lot of Democrat votes to pass what would be the largest welfare program sponsored in the history of the Republican party,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., after leaving the meeting.
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Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the caucus chairman, was also doubtful about the bill’s passage, which House Speaker Paul Ryan guaranteed would get the 218 votes to pass the House.
“I think that a clean repeal [of Obamacare] with a replacement that works are the only way that you get to 218 votes,” Meadows said. “I am not aware of any bill that will get 218 votes today.”
It doesn’t appear that White House budget director and Freedom Caucus alumnus Mick Mulvaney was able to convince the caucus to drop objections to the bill.
“We obviously enjoyed the exchange. What he let us know is that they are still open to negotiations. This is not something that is in stone,” Meadows said.
He added that Mulvaney came “on his own invitation because he knew he would be welcome by the Freedom Caucus as a previous member.”
The Freedom Caucus and Senate conservatives are advocating a separate bill that would immediately repeal Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and replace refundable tax credits in the AHCA with a tax deduction.
The meeting comes after a day in which the White House and GOP leadership were bullish on the chances for the AHCA, which cuts most of Obamacare’s taxes and keeps the Medicaid expansion in place until 2020.
President Trump said Tuesday that he is proud to support the AHCA and Ryan guaranteed it would get 218 votes to get through the House during a separate press conference Tuesday.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee and Ways & Means Committee will mark up their respective parts of the legislation on Wednesday.
Both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hope to get the bill to Trump’s desk before the Senate leaves for its Easter recess in early April.
But Freedom Caucus members hinted that there are still divisions within the GOP over whether the bill could pass.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said that Mulvaney didn’t go into any specifics about what parts of the AHCA were on the table. He said that there was going to be more than small changes.
“I don’t think there is any tinkering that will get us to 218,” he said.
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner