Healthcare vote: High stakes for President

WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump may face his first major legislative hurdle today, with a do-or-die vote the Republicans hope to hold in the House of Representatives on a plan that would roll back the signature healthcare law of former president Barack Obama.

Mr Trump has been billed by some lawmakers as "the closer" to sealing the deal on the replacement healthcare plan that was initially expected to be voted on at around 7pm local time yesterday (8am Singapore today). But there were signs late on Wednesday that the deadline could be pushed back as some conservatives vowed to kill the vote unless important last-minute changes were made.

With Democrats opposed to Mr Trump's effort to rip out his predecessor's crowning domestic policy achievement, and his own party's right flank in revolt, Mr Trump brought in wavering lawmakers on Wednesday to try to tip the scales in his favour. Insiders say Mr Trump's meetings focused less on specifics than on the politics of "Trumpcare" failing - an outcome that would be a humiliating defeat at the start of his term.

Conservative Republicans have criticised the replacement for being too similar to Obamacare, and some moderate Republicans are concerned it will hurt the healthcare coverage of millions. Party leaders made tweaks to the Bill on Monday, hoping that would allay concerns enough for it to squeak by.

Mr Obama yesterday warned against approving any changes unless the measure improves coverage for Americans. "We should start from the baseline that any changes will make our healthcare system better, not worse for hard-working Americans. That should always be our priority," Mr Obama said in a statement on the seventh anniversary of his signing Obamacare into law.

The House vote on the American Health Care Act will be a tight one. The Democratic minority is prepared to vote against it as a bloc, so Republican leaders need to limit defections to 21 out of their party's 237 representatives - depending on how many members end up casting a vote. Should the House pass the Bill, the Senate is expected to take up the measure next week, where the opposition is also likely to be equally stiff.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'Healthcare vote: High stakes for President'. Print Edition | Subscribe