US President Donald Trump made a final push on Thursday to win over sceptical members of his own Republican Party to begin dismantling Obamacare in the House of Representatives or risk failure on one of his top legislative priorities.
The effort is seen by financial markets as a crucial test of Trump’s ability to work with Congress to deliver on his agenda, including planned tax cuts. Republican leaders hoped to vote on the healthcare bill on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of former Democratic President Barack Obama signing his healthcare law. Although Republicans have a majority in the House, Democrats are united against the bill and Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has championed the bill, can afford to lose only 21 Republican votes. On Thursday morning, MSNBC said a count by NBC News showed that 30 Republicans were planning to vote “no” or leaning that way.
Trump met at the White House on Thursday morning with some of the bill’s strongest opponents – members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who say it does not go far enough to undo Obamacare. “We’re still open for negotiations,” Representative Ted Yoho, a member of the group, told CNN before the meeting. “There is still time.”
Republican Representative Luke Messer, a member of the House leadership, said after a meeting with Ryan they were still hoping to hold a vote on Thursday but were awaiting the outcome of Trump’s meeting with the Freedom Caucus. Messer said he expected the chamber to go ahead with a planned evening vote. Trump urged Americans in a tweet early on Thursday to press their representatives to vote for the bill, known formally as the American Health Care Act.
Uncertainty over the bill has rattled financial markets and a failure just two months into Trump’s presidency would be a setback for the White House, which as late as Wednesday said there was “no Plan B” for the healthcare measure. US stock markets have risen steadily in recent months on optimism over a pro-business Trump agenda but fell back sharply on Tuesday as investors worried that failure to push through the healthcare bill could have a knock-on effect on other Trump priorities such as tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
US stocks were higher in late morning trading on Thursday as investors snapped up beaten-down bank stocks but remained cautious because of the healthcare bill. “Investors are concerned … if this vote goes poorly, then what are the implications for tax reform and repatriation of offshore capital,” said John Traynor, chief investment officer at People’s United Bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut.