House Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Thursday morning confident and "feeling good" that they have the votes on a bill to partially repeal Obamacare, and dismissed questions about why they are moving forward without an updated estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was "cheering. I think he was almost giddy," said Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., one of the holdouts who announced he is supporting the bill. A source in the room later told the Washington Examiner that Ryan more calm and direct in his brief remarks before the caucus.
Still, Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., told the Washington Examiner that the meeting had a celebratory feel, despite what is likely to be a close margin.
"This was a day that people were feeling good about the fact that we've worked together, we've got a better product than we started with," Rep. Messer, R-Ind., said after the meeting. "And, a recognition that there is still a lot of work that we have to do."
Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., was another holdout who said Thursday morning he was on board.
"This is the solution to rising rates," Mast said outside the meeting. "This makes sure that people are continually covered."
Other key holdouts on the American Health Care Act also announced their support for the Obamacare repeal bill following the meeting. But despite the jubilant mood, the vote margin is expected to be razor-thin, and several key undecideds remained on the fence Thursday morning.
That included conservative Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who said he is still looking at the details.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., a key centrist vote, also said he is undecided. Curbelo met with GOP leadership yesterday afternoon and said Wednesday he was going to meet with Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., to discuss a new amendment that gave $8 billion for high-risk pools intended to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
Lawmakers who support the bill rejected the idea that they needed to wait for a new score from the CBO before holding a vote.
There is a CBO score for the underlying bill, which said that 24 million people would go without insurance over the next decade, including millions who would make that decision voluntarily once the insurance mandates disappear. But there isn't a new score for the substantial changes made to the AHCA since it was pulled from the House floor last month.
The AHCA has new amendments that allow states to opt out of insurer mandates that require insurers to cover 10 essential health benefits in their plans and abide by a price control called community rating that prevents them from charging sick people more money.
Other new amendments include $15 billion to set up federal high-risk pools and an additional $8 billion secured to get wary centrists on board.
While the CBO score looks at the underlying bill, it doesn't take into account how any of those changes will impact insurance coverage or federal spending.
Still, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., played down the need for a score. While he said the CBO gets "dollars and cents right," their track record on scoring insurance coverage is spotty.
The amendment doesn't let states opt out of the mandate that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions. However, by opting out of community rating, insurers could quickly make coverage less affordable for those people.
Republicans counter that states waiving that rule have to set up a high-risk pool, and can take advantage of the $8 billion in the latest amendment and $130 billion from a stability fund intended to help prop up the individual market.
But several experts doubt that the $8 billion is enough for a high-risk pool, where the state subsidizes the cost of insurance for sick people.
A Thursday report from research firm Avalere Health found that the total funding for high-risk pools of $23 billion would only cover 110,000 people with preexisting conditions. If a state also uses all of the funds they get from a stability fund then 600,000 people could be covered.
But Avalere said that currently 2.2 million enrollees in the individual market, which includes Obamacare's exchanges and is for people that don't get insurance through work, have some type of a pre-existing condition.