Donald Trump ran for president on the argument that he could cut better deals than the average politician, and the healthcare bill is putting that boast to the test.
In the run-up to Thursday's scheduled House vote on the American Health Care Act, a congressional Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump has taken a leading role in trying to win over wavering GOP lawmakers and negotiate last-minute changes to the bill.
But as of late Monday, Trump had yet to unite the party around his plan, leaving open the possibility that the votes won't be there by Thursday, and reduce Trump to a failure on his first major attempt to show he can bring the GOP together.
"This shines a bright light on the divide within the Republican Party," said Peter Pitts of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. The said the GOP includes people who think the AHCA goes too far, and people who "if they had their druthers, they wouldn't want to have any large government healthcare program at all."
"Can Donald Trump really wade into the fray and help both sides reach a consensus?" Pitts asked, noting the question that will decide the bill's fate.
Trump met at the White House Monday with Republican senators who have complaints about the AHCA, ranging from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on the right to Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who champions a more centrist alternative.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the leader more tightly connected to the repeal and replace plan than even Trump, has publicly been expressing confidence the presidential arm-twisting will work.
"The president is bringing people to his table, and I am very impressed with how the president is helping us close this bill," Ryan said on Fox News on Sunday. "I feel very good about it... because the president has become a great closer."
But he's not there yet. Members of the House Freedom Caucus haven't come around to the bill, and as a result, Trump, Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price are all expected to mount a full court press on behalf of the legislation over the next few days.
At the same time, plenty of Trump's own supporters are urging him to dump the bill. These Trump backers feel AHCA is a Ryan initiative that will derail the rest of the president's agenda. They also worry the bill will wind up hurting work-class Trump voters, especially in Medicaid expansion states.
So far, Trump has been negotiating mainly with conservatives despite campaign commitments and past healthcare policy views that place him closer to the moderates and pro-Medicaid expansion Republicans who worry the current bill won't cover enough people.
But it wasn't Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Trump huddled with at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. It was Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the House Freedom Caucus, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who are skeptical of the bill from the right.
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., took a page out of The Art of the Deal in describing the House bill as an "opening bid" — something Trump would rarely take without further negotiation.
And some say Trump himself sees the bill that way — as something that can change if needed in order to get a deal. Several Republican congressional aides who work for conservatives who either oppose the bill or have serious reservations about it have told the Washington Examiner they believe Trump is more open to changing the substance of the bill than Ryan.
One aide said Trump was wide open on the substance of the bill but also very opposed to inaction on healthcare. So he has remained at the table.
It's not clear how much headway the president is making, however. Meadows and other key Freedom Caucus members remain opposed days before the crucial House vote. Senators who attended Monday's White House meeting were said to be "frustrated" with the results.
Trump claimed he swayed members of the Republican Study Committee. After a meeting with over a dozen lawmakers who belonged to the group, Trump said, "I want everyone to know that every single person in this room is now a 'yes.'"
But many conservatives still hope to amend the bill to make it a more complete repeal of Obamacare. Cruz argued on "Face the Nation" that there are 12 mandates in Obamacare that raise insurance premiums for consumers and the House bill repeals only two.
The math leaves Trump somewhat stuck in the middle and liable to lose votes regardless of whether he toughens it up for conservatives or eases it back for moderates.
Trump seemed to realize his own predicament in a Fox News interview, when he said healthcare was "complex" because whatever you do to make one group "happy" makes another "unhappy."