Update 3:40 pm: The vote has been cancelled. Watch Paul Ryan’s press conference announcing the decision above.
Original post: The House of Representatives is planning to vote on the American Health Care Act — the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare — today. A specific time for the vote has not yet been announced, but if in fact it does happen, it’s expected to take place sometime in the late afternoon Eastern time.
The stakes are incredibly high. The bill would replace Obamacare’s income-adjusted subsidies to buy insurance on individual marketplaces with a flat and overall less generous tax credit. It would overhaul and dramatically cut Medicaid. And it would slash some taxes that only hit the wealthy. The Congressional Budget Office estimated its enactment would lead to 24 million more people becoming uninsured by 2026.
But it’s unclear whether Republican leaders will come up with the votes necessary to pass it. Since one Democrat is expected to miss the vote — Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) is out of town for his wife’s funeral — 215 yes votes would be needed to pass the bill.
There are 237 Republicans in the House. If every Democrat opposes the AHCA, as expected, the GOP could only then afford to lose 22 of their own members. If there are 23 Republican no votes, the bill will fail.
It is also possible that, rather than face a humiliating defeat on the House floor, Speaker Ryan will cancel the vote if he’s coming up short — despite President Trump’s demands that it happen today.
Why Republicans are struggling to come up with the votes
The American Health Care Act has been harshly criticized by two distinct parts of the GOP caucus.
From the right, a bloc of conservatives aligned with the House Freedom Caucus has been arguing that the AHCA kept far too much of Obamacare in place, and opposed the bill for not doing enough to roll it back.
Meanwhile, other members of the party were deeply worried that the bill would cause many of their constituents to lose insurance coverage — a sort of Coverage Caucus.
The problem is that these groups seem to have diametrically opposed demands. The conservatives want to dismantle Obamacare while the Coverage Caucus, well, doesn’t. Any concession to one group will likely alienate the other.
Ryan and Trump have been struggling to satisfy enough members of both blocs to get the bill passed. But as negotiations dragged on, Trump sent word that he’d had enough, and demanded the House vote on the bill Friday without a deal in hand — hoping that making the vote a test of members’ loyalty to him will be enough to get the bill across the finish line. So we really don’t know how this thing will end up.