The House Republican leadership’s effort this week to sloppily drive home its Obamacare repeal legislation seemingly collapsed on Thursday afternoon, when President Donald Trump was ultimately unable to win the elusive support of the hard-right Freedom Caucus. According to GOP sources, the healthcare vote will be postponed. Meetings among Republican members are expected to continue throughout the evening.
On Wednesday night, the caucus directly circumvented House leadership and Speaker Paul Ryan’s office to negotiate directly with Trump and the White House. The caucus has been the single biggest obstacle to passing the American Health Care Act in the House, and was reportedly nearing cutting a deal with the president. Members of the Freedom Caucus indicated that the president and House leadership were open to nixing the so-called "essential health benefits" from the House bill—a proposal that would prove anathema to more moderate Republicans in both the House and Senate.
Despite the frantic, high-level negotiations and courtship that lasted well into Wednesday evening, no new deal was struck, and the AHCA was left with an even more uncertain future than it had when the day started.
Freedom Caucus aides who spoke to The Daily Beast on Thursday morning said that, despite the “cautious optimism” on bringing Trump more into their corner, nothing had changed. The caucus’s concerns with the bill—which members view as another big-government conservative sell-out—were still far too great to support it, and President Trump and Speaker Ryan still weren’t surrendering to all their demands.
A friendly meeting at the White House with the president and his key advisers on Thursday morning didn’t do much to appease members of the Freedom Caucus or its staunchly anti-AHCA chairman Rep. Mark Meadows. A friendly meeting at the White House that happened the day before didn’t make a dent, either.
Even Trump’s high-profile visit to Capitol Hill to single out and warn conservative holdouts that “many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done” didn’t move the needle in his direction.
For weeks, the House Freedom Caucus was publicly and loudly vowing to not blink in its game of chicken against the Trump White House and House GOP leadership. They made it a mission to kill the bill—and the caucus delivered. “We’re taking [Trumpcare] down,” a Freedom Caucus aide assured The Daily Beast on Tuesday morning.