Republicans confronted a conservative rebellion in their own party Tuesday over their long-promised plans to repeal and replace the health care law, and beseeched President Donald Trump to settle the dispute in his first speech to a joint session of Congress.
“He’s the leader on this issue right now; he’s the one that’s got to hold us together,” said Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida as he left a morning meeting during which he said Republican leaders urged the rank-and-file to “‘stay strong'” on the issue and told them: “‘Now is not the time to back down.”
The pep talk from leadership came amid signs of serious trouble for the emerging House GOP health care plan even before legislation is officially released. Conservatives are objecting to new tax credits that would help consumers buy health care, arguing they amount to a costly new entitlement.
Influential House conservatives say there’s no way the approach can pass the House.
The dispute comes a month into Trump’s presidency, and seven years after the Affordable Care Act passed a Democratic-controlled Congress with Barack Obama in the White House. Now the Republicans are in charge of the White House and Congress. Yet, having spent all those intervening years promising to uproot the law and replace it with something better, they find themselves flailing and divided at the moment of truth.
Most Republicans and aides professed to have little insight into what Trump would say Tuesday night, and to what extent he would endorse their plan, though several all but begged him to do so.
“What the president can say is that the plan that gets presented to the conference is the one you need to vote ‘yes’ on,” said GOP Rep. Bill Flores of Texas. “That’s how he can be helpful.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin sought to put a positive face on the divisions.
“You’re going to have a lot of churning on any kind of legislative product like this,” Ryan said….