Key Republican announces opposition to Trumpcare, putting it on the verge of collapse

Turns out pre-existing condition protections are popular.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, during a signing ceremony for the 21st Century Cures Act. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, during a signing ceremony for the 21st Century Cures Act. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) told WHTC Morning News Tuesday morning that he had informed House leadership he “cannot support” the current version of the revived American Health Care Act, which would repeal and replace large parts of Obamacare.

Upton said the bill lost his support because it doesn’t do enough to protect patients with pre-existing conditions.

“The way that it is structured right now, there’s an amendment that is, in essence, part of this bill, that now allows the governors to waive pre-existing illnesses as part of essential benefits,” Upton said.

Many members of Congress have promised constituents they will protect people with pre-existing conditions. Donald Trump has said, wrongly, that “pre-existing conditions” are in the existing bill.

But, according to Upton, as well as most patient advocacy groups, this bill fails to extend meaningful protections to these people.

“The Freedom Caucus insisted on this provision, they’ve added it in the Rules Committee, and as you may know, I’m not at all comfortable with removing that protection,” Upton said in the WHTC interview. “I’ve supported the practice of not allowing pre-existing illnesses to be discriminated against from the very get-go. This amendment torpedoes that, and I told the leadership that I cannot support this bill with this provision in it.”

Losing Upton’s support would bring the bill within a vote or two of failure, assuming all Democrats continue to oppose the increasingly extreme bill. Upton is the former House Energy and Commerce Chairman, normally a reliable leadership vote, and one of the votes that got the original bill out of committee.

The New York Times has aggregated five whip counts done by other news organizations, all with between 19 and 21 confirmed public “no” votes from House Republicans. Upton’s comments move those counts up by one. House leadership can afford to lose 22 votes —but if 23 vote no with all Democrats, the bill will fail.

“So, I don’t know how it will all play out, but I know that there are a good number of us that have raised real red flags and concerns, and it’s not going to get my yes vote the way that it is,” Upton said in the WHTC interview. “There are not the votes as of this morning to move the bill forward.”

The White House had been putting pressure on congressional leadership to vote on the bill this week because Congress is going on recess next week.

Upton also said that “the Senate would never accept this provision,” and that he had sat down with some Freedom Caucus members on Monday, and “they’re not willing to budge at this point.”

The AHCA got within an hour of a vote on the House floor in March, before Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill due to an excessive number of Republican defections amid last-minute changes and a horrible score from the Congressional Budget Office.

The revived version of the ACHA has made many concessions to the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus, and the results are so awful that some House Republicans introduced an amendment which would exempt themselves and their staffs from any effects of the law.