At least 25 members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus will break ranks with GOP leadership on Thursday and vote against the American Health Care Act that attempts to start whittling away at Obamacare.
"BREAKING: more than 25 Freedom Caucus 'No's' on AHCA — group says 'start over,'" tweeted Alyssa Farah, spokeswoman for the caucus.
Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters after a closed-door meeting that there are not enough votes to pass the legislation. However, he didn't disclose how many members of the caucus, which numbers between 35 and 40, could vote against the bill. His statement came after members of the caucus met with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House.
BREAKING: more than 25 Freedom Caucus 'No's' on AHCA — group says "start over"— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) March 22, 2017
House Republicans can afford 22 Republican members to break ranks if Democrats, as expected, unanimously oppose the bill. But if more oppose it, it will fail in the House.
Conservative members of the House have been skeptical of the plan proposed by Speaker Paul Ryan, saying it doesn't go far enough toward repealing Obamacare. They argue it leaves in place major parts of Obama's signature proposal for several years and simply replaces a central planner they don't like with one that they would like.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said the White House didn't offer any substantive changes to the legislation, but hinted that changes could be made once the bill reaches the Senate.
"They offered improvements in the Senate that may come about, but the Senate is more liberal," Brooks said after the meeting.
Meadows was also unconvinced about potential Senate changes.
"I serve in the House and the only vote that I can be worried about is the vote that I can make in the House today," he said.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said the meeting at the White House was good but "there was nothing new." He remains opposed to the legislation.
House Republican leaders have said the bill is the GOP's best option given that it cannot push a full repeal bill through the Senate, and instead has to use the reconciliation process, which will allow them to start dismantling the bill. House leadership also appears to be moving to blame the conservative members for the bill not passing, and Ryan has warned them they would have to go home and face angry voters if the AHCA were to die in the House.
Questions remain about whether the bill would ever get a vote in the Senate because there are a number of moderate and conservative Republican senators who are against the bill as well. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been vocal in urging Freedom Caucus members to stand their ground and hold out for a more conservative piece of legislation.
"I commend @freedomcaucus for staying united against Obamacare Lite. Enough NO votes to stop bill and restart negotiations w/ conservatives," Paul tweeted Wednesday afternoon.