Trump Lobbies House Republicans To Vote For Health Care Bill

May 3, 2017
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump is now personally lobbying for health care votes one House Republican at a time. He's looking for support for the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. NPR's Mara Liasson joins us from the White House to discuss that and some other news out of the White House today. Hiya, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: The GOP bill picked up a few key votes today. Tell us what happened. Was it a policy change that won those votes over?

LIASSON: Yes. The problem for moderate Republicans was that they were worrying about people with preexisting conditions which, under the new more conservative version of the Obamacare replacement bill, would no longer be guaranteed to get coverage at the same price as healthier people. This is what's known as community rating.

So to address this concern, the Republicans have agreed to add some money - $8 billion over five years - to something called high-risk pools which are supposed to cover people with preexisting conditions at an affordable cost. But the White House was very careful not to make a guarantee that these people wouldn't be charged more than healthy people. And we also know that the track record of high-risk pools is very mixed, but that was a change they made.

SIEGEL: Well, with those additional votes from House Republicans, do they now have a majority?

LIASSON: That's a good question. It's still not clear. But having Fred Upton of Michigan and Billy Long of Missouri, who were the two moderate lawmakers who came to the White House today and announced that they had switched their votes from no to yes, that was a big boost for the White House. The White House would really like a vote this week if they have the votes because they not only want a win, a success story to talk about.

But after tomorrow, the House members go back to their districts. And they don't want those wavering lawmakers to go back home and be met once again by angry constituents. They want to lock them in now. And people I've talked to at the White House, on the Hill seem to mostly want to heave this thing over to the other side of Capitol Hill and get it over to the Senate where it will be changed.

And today, when Fred Upton came out of the White House after meeting with the president, he said this bill is not the final product. It will be changed again. And he assumes the Senate will change it in a way that will make it even more palatable for moderates. And if that is the case, what will the Freedom Caucus conservatives do when it comes back from the Senate, if it ever does?

SIEGEL: Yeah. Well, what happened to other controversial parts of this bill, the proposed cuts to Medicaid, for example?

LIASSON: Those are still in there. Nothing has changed. Medicaid will still be block granted. That's what caused the Congressional Budget Office in large part to score the bill, saying that about 24 million fewer people would get coverage under this plan. And while Donald Trump did run on a platform to repeal Obamacare, he also explicitly ran against Medicaid cuts.

But there are so many things in this bill that Republicans want, like $600 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and very wealthy and some procedural implications that will make tax reform much, much easier. So this isn't just face-saving, it's not just getting a political win on the board. They want the substantive tax cut savings that this bill will give them.

SIEGEL: Just one other thing that happened today, President Trump hosted Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. And like presidents before him, Trump promised to make a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. What came out of that meeting?

LIASSON: Not anything substantive. He did sound very optimistic, he always does. He said this might not be as difficult as people have thought over the years. But the big question remains, does the new Trump administration and Israel agree with the Palestinians that there should be a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders? And we don't know yet the answer to that question.

SIEGEL: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson at the White House. Thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.