The House Budget Committee in a March 16 markup of the proposed American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) approved the bill by a slim 19-to-17 vote. Three Republican members voted against the measure alongside Democrats. The bill now advances to the Rules Committee, where changes are expected before reaching the House floor.
“AHCA is a strong first step,” Chair Diane Black, R-Tenn., said during opening statements while urging Republicans to stay together in their efforts to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). “To my Republican colleagues who have doubts today, I encourage you: don’t cut off discussion. Stay in this effort and help us enhance this proposal by advancing it out of committee and pushing for further conservative reforms,” Black said. Three Republicans subsequently voted against the bill after Black’s request; each are members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who have criticized the AHCA as being too similar to the ACA.
Ranking member John Yarmuth, D-Ky., criticized the AHCA during opening statements for giving tax cuts to the wealthy. This bill gives “”$600 billion in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy,” Yarmuth said. “The bill gives millionaires a $50,000 tax cut every year,” he added.
Ryan told reporters in an evening press briefing on March 15 that Republicans are working to improve the AHCA before a floor vote. ” Now that we have the (CBO) score, we know exactly what we’re dealing…we can incorporate feedback to improve this bill, to refine this bill. And those kinds of conversations are occurring between the White House, the House, and the Senate and our members,” Ryan said. When asked about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s, D-Calif., letter to him requesting an updated score before a floor vote if the bill is changed (TAXDAY, 2017/03/16, C.1), Ryan replied, “We’re working with CBO and scoring,” although he added that he had not yet seen the letter.
Changes are expected to the bill to appease both moderate as well as more conservative Republicans who have voiced their own concerns with the measure. Furthermore, additional bills related to the AHCA and part of the three-pronged package of Republican efforts toward health care reform will be considered by the House during the week of March 20, Ryan told reporters on March 16.
By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff