House Rules Committee takes up AHCA as GOP scrambles to garner enough votes

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The American Health Care Act is expected to reach the House floor as early as Thursday.

As the House Rules Committee began debating the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Wednesday, the question remained whether Republicans could amass enough votes to send the healthcare bill to the Senate.

More than 25 members of the House Freedom Caucus are opposed to the bill, a spokeswoman for the group told Politico Wednesday afternoon. With all Democrats expected to vote against Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement, it would take 22 Republican "no" votes to block it.

Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, continues to oppose the bill, according to The Hill. He also shrugged off the fact that Trump singled him out during a meeting Tuesday with GOP lawmakers, saying "I think Mark Meadows will get there, too. Mark, I'm coming after you."

More generally, Trump warned members of Congress during that meeting that there will be political consequences if they vote against the bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a press conference Tuesday.

As the Rules Committee started what was expected to be a lengthy debate over the bill on Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers wanted to know why the House was moving forward without an updated score of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO has scored the original bill, but Republicans amended it late Monday in a bid to win more votes from conservative lawmakers.

“It strikes me as odd that we’re preceding without all the information,” said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., who unsuccessfully moved to adjourn the session until the CBO releases a new score.

RELATED: CBO projections add fuel to both sides of healthcare debate

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, D-Texas, who testified about the details of the bill, later said that he anticipates a CBO score before the House votes on the AHCA—“with ample time for members to view it.”

Brady also said that the amendments “take important actions to strengthen the American Health Care Act,” particularly when it comes to ensuring older Americans have adequate access to affordable health insurance.

Diane Black, who heads the House Budget Committee, also urged GOP unity, testifying that the AHCA is an “opportunity that we cannot let pass by.”

Republican lawmakers, she said, “will soon be faced with a stark choice” between repealing and replacing the ACA, and voting to keep status quo.

But Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., had a different take. “What you’ve put forth is not an improvement” on the ACA, he said, “what you’ve put forth is actually going to harm people.”

Watch the rest of the debate:

‘Buffalo bribe’ rankles New York

In his opening statement, McGovern slammed the GOP’s amendments to the AHCA, saying they are “full of backroom deals” including a cynical agreement in New York that’s been dubbed the “Buffalo bribe.”

The dustup he was referring to was a provision of the AHCA that would shift more than $2 billion in Medicaid costs from mostly Republican-controlled, upstate New York counties to the state government, as the Associated Press reported. The provision leaves out Democratic-controlled New York City.

RELATED: Cuomo: AHCA’s cuts would decimate rural providers in NY

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., called the GOP plan "a political sleight of hand" that seeks to buy GOP votes, according to the article. But GOP New York Rep. Chris Collins said the amendment “will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families.”

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a more recent count of Republicans expected to vote against the bill.

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