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GOP boosts pressure as health bill crunch time nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and House leaders revved up pressure Wednesday on balky conservatives and other Republicans as crunch time approached on the party’s health care overhaul bill. Outnumbered Democrats condemned the bill as a transfer of money to the rich, and former Vice President Joe Biden predicted the measure would fail.

A day before the House planned votes on the measure, Trump and top Republicans continued hunting support for what would be a significant achievement for his young presidency or a stinging defeat if they failed. Underscoring the bill’s uncertain fate, a senior administration official said that 20 to 25 House Republicans remained opposed or undecided. That’s a grave figure since united Democratic opposition means the measure crashes if 22 GOP lawmakers vote “no.”

“Big day for health care. Working hard!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

In a rally on the Capitol steps, Democratic leaders denounced the Republican drive to demolish former President Barack Obama’s health care law, a GOP pledge since the statute’s 2010 enactment. They criticized its elimination of tax increases Obama imposed on high earners and health care companies while reducing federal help for many low-income people and cutting Medicaid, which helps the poor pay medical bills.

“It ain’t going anywhere,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. “This is not going to pass.”

Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown was also there and said, “This is a dangerous bill. It’s written by people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

Democrats champion Obama’s statute for its expansion of health care coverage to 20 million more people and requiring insurers to cover the very ill, families’ grown children to age 26 and specified services like mental health care.

As the House Rules Committee met to set the contours of Thursday’s planned floor debate, Republicans said their legislation would help achieve their long-time goal.

“We have the best opportunity in seven years to repeal this sinking ship of Obamacare,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas. He said the GOP bill would “deliver a health care system that truly works for the American people.”

Democrats focused on recent projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the GOP would cost 24 million people coverage in a decade and drive up out of pocket costs for many, particularly lower earners and older people.

“Sometimes I think my Republican friends have lost their human ability to feel what 24 million people really means,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Trump’s remarks and the White House nose count of votes were each described by Republicans who provided inside information on condition of anonymity.

The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and shrink the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the statute has expanded. It would provide tax credits for medical bills, though generally skimpier than the aid Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposes on high-income people and health industry companies.

The Rules committee, usually tightly controlled by GOP leadership, was expected to let the chamber vote on revisions that top Republicans concocted to win votes. These include adding federal aid for older people and protecting upstate New York counties — but not Democratic-run New York City — from repaying the state billions of dollars for Medicaid costs.

Most House GOP opposition comes from some of the chamber’s most conservative lawmakers, though a smattering of GOP moderates have also said they oppose the Republican bill.

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