A group of reporters tried to confirm on April 26 when the House might vote on an Obamacare repeal bill. Would the vote come over the weekend?
“I don’t know where you are getting this,” a perplexed senior GOP congressional aide told reporters.
“THE WHITE HOUSE,” reporters shouted back in unison.
It’s happening again. This week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told Fox News it’s possible the House could vote on Saturday, prompting a House GOP aide to tell the Washington Examiner’s Sarah Westwood that they’re "not sure what that's about."
For the past month, House leadership’s offices have been bombarded with inquiries on the timing of the health care vote.
Even when Congress was in April recess, they were being asked: Would House Speaker Paul Ryan summon everyone back to Washington to vote on the American Health Care Act? “I don’t know where you were getting that either,” the senior aide said.
President Donald Trump and his administration have been frantic in their push for a vote on the AHCA since he took office. It’s become a pattern. From the beginning, the White House, anxious to move past health care, has been hell bent on setting arbitrary deadlines for the vote.
The White House hasn’t learned from AHCA 1.0
In March, when the AHCA was first introduced to the House, Trump tried to marry the pressure of an impending vote deadline with a rallying cry for party unity. His directive to Congress was “now or never.” If it didn’t pass, Trump said Congress would have to move on to other policy areas, like tax reform.
For a brief moment, namely the night before Trump’s first “deadline” in March, the pressure seemed to be working. Then it didn’t. Over and over again, House members have called the White House’s bluff successfully.
One Republican reportedly said of the White House’s wrangling at the time, "You know, the last time someone ordered me to do something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn't listen to him either."
In the meantime, conservatives have moved the bill further and further to the right, allowing states to waive key patient protections spelled out in Obamacare, risking the party’s moderate members. Now, with an amendment from conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Republicans are scrambling to satisfy everyone’s concerns to get to a vote. On Wednesday morning, they seemed closer than ever to having the votes. But House Republicans are still not absolutely certain they have 216 votes to pass the health bill, and House leadership has made it explicitly clear that they won’t vote until they are.
The White House, however, keeps insisting on a vote — and soon. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop explained, the reason Republicans keep pushing for a quick vote has to do with obscure Senate rules and a legislative order that allows them to enact a bigger tax cut down the line.
Even as recently as Tuesday, Trump was itching for negotiations to end: “How's health care coming, folks? How’s it going? All right, we’re moving along? All right, I think it's time now, right? Right? They know it's time.”
It all leads to an easy conclusion, which Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum put best: “Where does health care stand? Don’t ask the White House.”