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Another House vote on ObamaCare repeal?

March 29, 2017

In an otherwise quiet day on the political front, moments ago Bloomberg dropped the surprising news of the day with a report that House Republicans are considering another try next week at passing the health-care bill they abruptly pulled last Friday in an embarrassing setback to their efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Speaking to Bloomberg, two Republicans said that leaders are discussing holding a vote, even staying into the weekend if necessary, although it was unclear what changes would be made to the GOP’s health bill. The ray of hope for Trump and Ryan is that members of the Freedom Caucus, which was instrumental in derailing the bill, have been talking with some Republican moderate holdouts in an effort to identify changes that could bring them on board with the measure.

A renewed attempt to pass Obamacare repeal would come after President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress said they would move on to issues like a tax overhaul in the wake of last week’s drama, when the long-awaited bill was pulled 30 minutes ahead of a scheduled floor vote. Asked if the GOP health bill will come up again, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “Yes. As soon as we figure it out and get the votes.”

Quoted by Bloomberg, Kevin McCarthy said nothing is currently scheduled and didn’t indicate how leadership would resolve divisions between the Freedom Caucus and moderates in the so-called Tuesday Group. “Lot of people are talking,” he said. “Lot of people are working.”

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is encouraging members to continue talking to each other about health care to “get to a place of yes” on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to his spokeswoman AshLee Strong. She didn’t have any updates on the timing on a future vote. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, has been negotiating with colleagues on a compromise.

“There’s a real commitment among members he’s been speaking with to not give up and move expeditiously toward a path forward,” his spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said. “But he doesn’t want to constrain himself to artificial deadlines like ‘before recess.’”

The discussion of a new vote comes with House Republican leaders and other key lawmakers leery of playing up talk of a redo. To set such expectations — only to again not have a vote occur — could be even more awkward for members when they leave Washington next week for a two-week recess.

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That said, republicans appear to be making the same mistake again, and withholding information from the rank and file: “other Republicans said they’re unaware of any plans to act on health care, and the remaining disagreements on the measure could be very difficult to resolve.”

“I haven’t heard anything as to what leadership is doing,” said RepresentativeWalter Jones of North Carolina. “The issue is very complex.”

Multiple House Republicans said they’ve heard from constituents who want to still repeal the Affordable Care Act and hope the issue isn’t dead.

“I’m very optimistic we can get something done in the real near future. And when I say in the near future, it may be two weeks, it may be a month,” said Representative Robert Aderholt of Alabama. “I do think it will come up again, the question is when. The form will have to change some,” said Representative Morgan Griffith of Virginia, adding that there remains a strong desire among conservative activists to undo the law. “If both the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group can agree on some things, then we’re in good shape,” he said.

He said failing to achieve meaningful change would hurt Republicans in 2018. “If we just sit up here and play tiddlywinks, it’ll hurt us,” he said.

If Republicans are serious about a second attempt, they have to hurry: the House is scheduled to begin a two-week recess starting April 7, and Republicans would like to return home having passed their health-care measure. Even so, it would mark quite a turnaround for a measure that had been declared dead.

Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon and former Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, went downright religious on Tuesday.  

“We’re approaching the Easter season,” he said. “Some things rise from the dead.”

While we applaud Walden’s optimism, which has also led to a record outpouring of animal spirits and a historic split between “hard” and “soft” economic data, it is time for the GOP to bring some tangible results, and reincarnating Obamacare repeal from the dead would be a good place to start.

Finally, it is unclear how fast the market narrative would have to change again: recall that after last Friday, it was suddenly spun as “bullish” that the GOP failed to pass its healthcare law, instead  allowing “Trump to focus” only on tax reform. However, we are confident that the power of the narrative will shine through again, and no matter the outcome, it will once again lead to a new all time highs for stocks even as the Fed itself is now warning that stocks appear just a little “frothy.”

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