The House Budget Committee voted 19-17 to approve the American Health Care Act on Thursday morning, with three Republicans breaking rank amid growing concern about whether the bill can garner enough votes to pass the full chamber.
The bill, which has already passed two other House committees, will now go to the Rules Committee, then onto the House floor.
In her opening remarks during Thursday’s hearing, House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., touted the AHCA as only the first step in a series of reforms that will deliver on Republicans’ promises of healthcare reform—and urged her GOP colleagues to keep an open mind.
“This legislation is a conservative vision for free market, patient-centered healthcare,” she said. “To my Republican colleagues who have doubts today, I encourage you, don’t cut off the discussion.”
But the three dissenting GOP votes—from Reps. Dave Brat, Gary Palmer and Mark Sanford—underscore the lingering doubts about the bill among some in the party.
In his remarks in opposition to one Democratic motion regarding the bill, Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., gave voice to his own concerns.
“Nobody contends that the bill before us a perfect plan–it’s not even a complete plan,” he said. “I wish we were sending the Senate a comprehensive reform that completely repeals Obamacare and completely replaces it with a healthy, vibrant, competitive and consumer-driven market.”
However, he said that once regulatory reforms and other legislative fixes are in place, he’s confident that consumers will have a wide range of choices of plans that best meet their needs.
Ranking committee member John Yarmuth, D-Ky., though, argued in his open remarks that the legislation doesn’t line up with President Donald Trump’s claims of cheaper, higher-quality “insurance for everybody” and no cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, the “exact opposite of every one of those promises Trump made to the American people is what’s in this bill,” he said.
Trump stumps for House bill
In a rally Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump attempted to drum up support for the House’s proposal—though he also hinted at a willingness to work on improving it.
“The House has put forward a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare based on the principles I outlined in my joint address, but let me tell you, we're going to arbitrate, we're going to all get together and we're going to get something done,” he said.
In his weekly press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan also indicated he was open to fixes to the bill.
"We constantly get feedback, we constantly get suggestions from members, and we’re working on bridging those gaps to make improvements to the bill so that we have a bill that can pass," he said.
Republicans staunchly opposed to the bill, meanwhile, continued to dig in their heels. In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, argued the House’s bill doesn’t go far enough and issued their own proposals.
For one, they argued that the GOP shouldn’t replace the Affordable Care Act's subsidies with "yet another healthcare entitlement,” in reference to the AHCA’s tax credits.