Despite simmering differences among Republicans, a key Congressional committee on Thursday gave narrow approval to a GOP plan to overhaul the Obama health law, sending it one step closer to a showdown vote on the floor of the U.S. House.
“We made a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Speaker Paul Ryan said soon after the House Budget Committee voted 19-17 to approve the Republican health plan.
“We’re going to keep our promise to the people that elected us,” Ryan told reporters, as his office sent out a news release with a headline of “One Step Closer.”
But for the first time, internal opposition to the health plan among Republicans broke out in the open, as three GOP lawmakers voted against the bill in the Budget Committee – Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL).
“We have one opportunity to answer the healthcare crisis the American people are facing,” Palmer said after the vote. “In my opinion, the current bill does not answer this crisis.”
Next stop for this bill is the House Rules Committee, which can still amend the bill with late changes designed to ensure its approval.
“This is our chance,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA). “The process is working here in the House for a change; it’s open, we’re taking ideas and moving forward.”
“Obamacare is being crushed under its own weight,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA).
In the halls of the Capitol, a variety of lawmakers talked about meetings among Republicans as GOP lawmakers of all stripes looked for ways to broker a final agreement.
“We met yesterday with the Vice President,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NY), a more moderate Republican who also was part of a meeting this morning with Speaker Ryan and others.
“This bill needs to be improved,” MacArthur said, as he refused to say if he would vote for the GOP plan as it is written. “This bill cannot move forward the way it is.”
As of now, the Republican plan remains short of a majority in the House, and the wheeling and dealing to change that will take center stage in coming days.
Some lawmakers made clear they would not be voting for the deal, no matter what gets changed, like Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).
“I am a very strong man of faith, but I think if St. Peter called and said ‘you need to vote for this bill if you want to get into heaven,’ I’d say, “St. Peter, I can’t do it.”