WASHINGTON (CN) – House Republicans said Thursday afternoon they would postpone a vote on the GOP health care bill after President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan failed to persuade the most conservative lawmakers to support the legislation.
More than 30 members of the House Freedom Caucus met with the president at the White House Thursday morning amid marathon negotiations and tension-filled meetings intended to wrangle the 216 votes needed to pass the bill.
After failing to strike a deal, Republican leadership abruptly canceled the scheduled vote.
Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said earlier Thursday that 30 to 40 members would vote against the bill.
Members of the caucus, among the most conservative Republicans, want significant changes to the bill. They say it does not go far enough to repeal former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation.
The caucus has also tried to extract a concession that would strip “essential health benefits” from the bill, which they say drive up insurance premiums.
Those benefits cover things like mental health care, maternity services, hospital stays and emergency room visits.
“We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes at this point under what we’re currently considering,” Meadows told reporters after the White House meeting.
“However, I would say progress is being made,” he added.
Meadows spoke highly of the president and applauded his efforts to deliver on his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obama’s legislation, calling his engagement with lawmakers on the issue “unprecedented.”
“The Freedom Caucus is committed to working with the president to get this done,” Meadows said.
Republicans had imposed an “artificial deadline” of Thursday to vote on the bill, Meadows added, which marks the 7-year anniversary of Obama signing what’s come to be known as Obamacare.
The Freedom Caucus will reach out to the Tuesday Group – an informal caucus of about 50 moderate Republicans – to try to build consensus on the bill, and ensure that it will provide coverage for pre-existing conditions and lower premiums, Meadow said.
Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s rush to push a vote a “rookie’s error” and slammed the GOP bill.
“As bad as Trumpcare was, Republicans have been up all night trying to make it worse,” she said of the late-night efforts by the Freedom Caucus to extract concessions on essential health benefits Wednesday night.
Lecturing the president on how to build consensus, Pelosi said Republicans are now scrambling to find a bill that will pass because “clearly they’re not ready.”
The White House said Thursday afternoon that the House will move ahead with a procedural vote on the bill Thursday evening, and will vote on the bill Friday morning.