Short of support, House won’t vote on health bill this week

AP PHOTO House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., left, talks with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. as they arrive for a GOP caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — The House won’t vote on Republican legislation scuttling much of President Barack Obama’s health care law until at least next week, a GOP leader said Thursday. The decision deals a setback to the White House, which has pressured congressional Republicans to pass the bill by Saturday — President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office.

“As soon as we have the votes, we’ll vote on it,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters late Thursday after leaving a meeting of the House GOP leadership that lasted nearly two hours. He said the vote would not occur Friday or Saturday.

White House and Republican leaders had labored all day to wring votes out of resistant moderate GOP lawmakers for the health care measure. But they remained shy of the support they’d need to fully rouse the measure back to life, and it was uncertain when the vote would occur.

Centrist Republicans were the primary target of the lobbying, a day after the conservative House Freedom Caucus announced its support for a revised version of the legislation. The fresh backing from that group exhumed the bill from the legislative graveyard, but leaders need moderates who’ve resisted the effort to jump aboard.

While the White House was eager for a vote this week, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wants to avoid an encore of last month’s embarrassment on the bill. He had to abruptly cancel a vote on an initial version of the bill because of opposition from moderates and conservatives alike.

Ryan told reporters that leaders were making progress but added, “We’re going to go when we have the votes.” He noted that he had spoken earlier this year about a 200-day legislative plan because of the complexity of revamping the nation’s health system, its tax code and border security.

In at least one instance, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to one recalcitrant conservative who is now a yes vote. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said he’d already decided to switch to backing the revamped bill on Wednesday before he got two phone calls from Pence, who on the second call handed the phone to Trump.