Donald Trump demands vote on healthcare plan to repeal Obamacare

Washington: US President Donald Trump issued an ultimatum to House Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal Obamacare vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

The President, through his aides in a closed-door meeting, signalled that the time for negotiations was over with Republicans who met late Thursday night on Capitol Hill to try to find common ground on the embattled package crafted by House Speaker Paul D Ryan, The Washington Post reported.

If Trump's measure fails, it would be a defeat for the President in his first effort to pass major legislation and it may also jeopardise other items on his wish list, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure spending.

US President Donald Trump. AP

US President Donald Trump. AP

Defeat would also mean that Obamacare, something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years, would remain in place.

"Disastrous #Obamacare has led to higher costs & fewer options. It will only continue to get worse! We must #RepealANDReplace. #PassTheBill," Trump tweeted.

Post-meeting on Thursday, a handful of Republicans announced they would back the legislation. But a larger number said they were still opposed or had yet to make up their minds, according to the report.

Some conservatives were concerned that the bill was too costly and did not do enough to roll back federal health insurance mandates.

Moderates and others, meanwhile, were grappling with worries of their states' governors and fretted that the loss of benefits would be too much for their constituents to bear, The New York Times reported.

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote "no". House leaders can afford to lose only 22 in order to pass the bill.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report on the revised version of the healthcare bill showing that it would cost more than the original version but would not cover more people.

The report said the bill, like the original version, would result in 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance in 2026 than under current law.

But recent changes to the bill would cut its deficit savings in half. Instead of reducing the deficit by $337 billion, the new version of the bill would save only $150 billion over the decade.

Former President Barack Obama stepped into the fray with a defence of his law on the seventh anniversary of its signing, and a call for bipartisan improvements.

"I've always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years," he wrote in a mass email to followers.

"So if Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they're prepared to work with Democrats in finding solutions that accomplish those goals - that's something we all should welcome."

Updated Date: Mar 24, 2017 17:40 PM

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