At this point, Zombie Trumpcare has been reanimated enough times to warrant its own Night of the Living Dead franchise.
But by midweek, a new amendment had breathed new life in the decaying bill and the House Republicans inched ever closer to making the American Health Care Act someone else’s problem.
On Wednesday evening, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters that “yes,” he believed that congressional Republicans had finally secured the 216 votes they had long sought. McCarthy’s office then sent out an official advisory to members confirming that the House is set to consider the AHCA on Thursday. One House Republican aide simply messaged The Daily Beast a Ron Paul “IT’S HAPPENING” GIF shortly before McCarthy’s announcement was made.
House GOP leadership was itching for their vote—even though the final legislative text had not yet been made public and the Congressional Budget Office would not be able to score it until after the scheduled vote.
The renewed momentum picked up after Republican Reps. Billy Long and Fred Upton announced on Wednesday morning that, following meeting with President Donald Trump, they had switched their Trumpcare votes from “no” to “yes.”
The president had assured them that he would support an amendment committing $8 billion over five years to try to prop up high-risk pools and go toward sick, vulnerable people with pre-existing conditions.
The additional dollars thrown at the bill don’t actually fix the problems and concerns that Upton had been publicly cited earlier this week, but regardless of that fact, the secured votes of the two prior, short-lived no-votes, giving the battered House leadership hope that something—anything—would pass their deeply divided, skittish conference.
But, as is the curse of the undead, this bill may never find peace.
Because even if House Republicans do manage to pass Zombie Trumpcare, every single Republican on Capitol Hill knows that the House’s hard, uneven labor since March will be very likely torn to shreds in the Senate.
“It’s not our job to write bills that pass the Senate…and it’s not the Senate’s job to write bills that pass the House,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole told The Daily Beast on Wednesday afternoon.
It was just a month ago that many House Republicans had been all but openly wishing that they could pass something in the hopes that it could languish in the Senate and becoming the upper chamber’s mess to handle.
Rep. Mark Sanford, a House Freedom Caucus member who Trump has threatened over his prior opposition to Trumpcare, plainly acknowledged that “it’s a political reality is if we get a much softened version [from the Senate], it’s going to be difficult for conservatives to support” it when it gets shot back to the House.
The current incarnation of the AHCA has been a major PR victory for the hardline-conservative Freedom Caucus, which had drawn ire from the president and fellow Republican lawmakers for leading the dramatic intra-party fight in March to tank Trumpcare the first time around. However, after Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows negotiated a deal late last month that pushed the deeply unpopular health-care bill even farther to the right, his caucus officially endorsed the revised AHCA. This shifted the blame for Trumpcare’s first failure off of the hardliners and onto the more moderate or centrist-leaning members who already hated the legislation and saw it as a political liability that would destroy millions of Americans’ health coverage.
“We’re already working on potential amendments with both moderate and conservative senators,” a smiling Meadows told reporters on Wednesday.
His Republican colleagues who were still skeptical—if not downright afraid—of what the latest AHCA would do to vulnerable constituents and patients with pre-existing conditions were less amused by the progress leadership had just made.
“Whether they need my vote or not, I want to do the right thing…I’m not going to reach a decision til I get [more] assurances,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo said on Wednesday late afternoon.
House Democrats could barely hide their giddiness.
“I think the Republicans are playing Russian roulette with this vote,” Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly told Politico. “There’s no question in competitive districts where you’ve got a potentially vulnerable Republican incumbent, this could make or break you.”
Democratic aides and members of Congress who spoke to The Daily Beast on Wednesday all had the same message: they don’t want House to keep any form of Trumpcare on life support, but if Republicans want to wade into the attack-ad hellscape of going on-record championing Zombie Trumpcare, “be our guest,” one progressive congressman said.