Gunman who critically injured GOP rep at Alexandria baseball practice has died – Trump

Five people were injured when a gunman opened fire on US congressmen at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise is among the injured. The shooter later died in the hospital.

READ MORE: Moment gunman opened fire on GOP congressmen caught on camera (VIDEO)

Scalise was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, which issued the following statement Wednesday evening: “Steve Scalise sustained a single rifle shot to the left hip. The bullet travelled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding. He was transported in shock to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, a Level I Trauma Center. He underwent immediate surgery, and an additional procedure to stop bleeding. He has received multiple units of blood transfusion. His condition is critical, and he will require additional operations.”

Just left hospital. Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape – but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!

After visiting the Louisiana congressman, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was in “very tough shape” but that he was “a real fighter.”

Earlier Wednesday, as details of the shooting were still breaking, Trump confirmed that Hodgkinson had died after a gun battle with police. Earlier, police had said that the suspect was in custody and “not a threat.”

Trump called Scalise a “patriot and a fighter,” and thanked the Capitol Police for their heroic actions in stopping the shooter. He also addressed the possibility that the attack may have been politically motivated.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.

“We may have our differences, but we’d do well in times like these to remember that everyone that serves in our nation’s capital is here because above all they love our country,” Trump said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) called for unity on the House floor.

“We are united in our shock, we are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us!” he said, adding, “We do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber. For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family.”

Ryan identified the two Capitol Police agents injured in the shooting as Krystal Griner and David Bailey.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called the shooting an “injury in the family,” urged the members of Congress to come together, and sent wishes for a speedy recovery to Rep. Scalise.

All votes scheduled for Wednesday in the House of Representatives have been canceled. Trump also canceled a speech this afternoon at the Department of Labor.

A 911 call about an active shooter came in around 7:09 am local time, Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown told reporters, adding that his units responded within three minutes.

The FBI is taking the lead on the investigation, but will work with state and local authorities, Special Agent Tim Slater said. It is “too early to say” if this was an act of  political terrorism, he added.

“It’s not an assassination attempt,” Slater said at first, but walked that comment back when asked for clarification, saying, “we are not sure at this moment.”

Injured officers were in “good condition,” said Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa, adding that they “acted heroically.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-Virginia) commended the heroic actions of Capitol Police and Alexandria officers, adding, “There are too many guns on the streets.”

Rep. Steve Scalise in surgery now, his office said he was in “good spirits” beforehand. He was shot in this morning

Scalise was in stable condition and undergoing surgery, his office said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.

“Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone. He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues,”

Shortly after 11am, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Scalise was out of surgery and “doing well.”

MedStar Washington Hospital Center later tweeted that Scalise is in critical condition after surgery. The other patient at that hospital is in good condition.

One congressional aide, a lobbyist, and two police officers were also among the injured, according to reports. Officials declined to confirm or deny that information.

Zachary Barth, a staffer for GOP Rep. Roger Williams of TX, posted on FB that he was shot but is “okay.” Gave permission to post thru friend

While none of the officials at the press conference would give details on the injured or the shooter, the Washington Post cited law enforcement sources to identify the attacker as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois.

Fox News reporter Chad Pergram says a gunman armed with a rifle attacked the group near a YMCA, firing dozens of shots. Alexandria is just south of Washington, DC.

Chief Brown said five people were taken to hospital following the incident, but declined to identify the victims or the suspect.

UPDATE: Suspect is in custody and not a threat. PIO will be onscene shortly to share updates.

WATCH: Video shows House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise taken away on stretcher and into helicopter following shooting at Virginia park.

Scalise is currently the Majority Whip in the US House of Representatives and represents Louisiana’s 1st congressional district.

Speaking on CNN, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) said Scalise was shot with a semi-automatic weapon. Brooks said he saw a man with a gun “blasting away.” Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail returned fire.

Brooks reportedly used his belt as a tourniquet to stop Scalise’s bleeding.

This is the first time a member of Congress has been shot since 2011, when Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona) survived an assassination attempt at a town hall in Tucson.

My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Twitter that both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are aware of the “developing situation”.

Both @POTUS & @VP are aware of the developing situation in Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected.

There are also reports that two police officers who were hospitalized after the shooting are also stable.

Scalise and other members of Congress were practicing for a charity baseball game scheduled for Thursday. Reuters is reporting that 15-25 lawmakers were at the baseball field when the attack occurred, along with a dozen staff members and security personnel.

The annual congressional baseball game, which sees senators and congressmen from each party face off against one another, has been a tradition since 1909. It will not be canceled or postponed, CNN reported citing congressional sources.

Our hearts are heavy. Please pray for @SteveScalise and the others involved in this morning’s shooting.

Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-Florida), who left the scene moments before the shooting, told Fox News that a man walked up to him as he was walking to his car and asked if it was “Republicans or Democrats out there.”

Congressman Mark Walker (R-North Carolina), told NBC News it seemed the “gunman was there to kill as many Republican members as possible.”

Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Michigan) told WWJ radio that he witnessed Scalise being shot: “He was a sitting duck.”

A witness told journalist Will Drabold that he heard a “wave of gunfire” and saw 10-15 people flee the field. He said he also saw men returning fire from behind what looked to him like a federal vehicle.

“The Vice President and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely,” President Trump said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.”

APD PIO heading to scene, updates will be posted when available. Victims being transported to hospitals.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) was also at the baseball field. Speaking to MSNBC, he said “it would have been a massacre” if the Capitol Police security had not been at the scene.

Scalise, 51, has been a congressman since 2008. His leadership position among congressional Republicans means that he is entitled to a security detail.

US Capitol Police released a statement to congressional offices saying that they have deployed a “robust” police presence throughout the Capitol complex. However, they said that all buildings within the area are open in accordance with routine operations.

Trump defends $1 trillion budget bill in face of conservative fury

President Trump on Tuesday defended the controversial $1 trillion-plus budget deal heading for a vote – as he and congressional Republicans face conservative anger at what critics see as a cave to Democrats on everything from sanctuary cities to funding for Planned Parenthood.

“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” Trump tweeted, adding that the solution is to elect more Republican senators in 2018 “or change the rules” of the Senate filibuster.

The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We….

either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!

He added a warning shot: “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

Republican and Democratic lawmakers made the budget deal, announced Monday, in order to fund the government through September and avoid a shutdown later this week. But despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House, the deal is widely perceived as benefiting Democratic interests and priorities, while sidelining some of the items on Trump’s wishlist.

Heritage Action, an outside conservative group, on Tuesday urged a “no” vote on the package, with Heritage Foundation analysts claiming it “woefully fails the test of fiscal responsibility and does not advance important conservative policies.”

The plan has no funding for Trump’s much vaunted border wall, though it includes $1.5 billion for border security.

While the deal does include an increase in military spending as requested by Trump, it does not reduce funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” – jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration law – and continues to fund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Non-defense spending also sees an increase, and Democrats managed to kill 160 Republican riders on issues such as environmental regulations. The deal also includes a $2 billion increase in spending for the National Institutes of Health.

At a White House ceremony to award a trophy to the Air Force football team, Trump again hailed parts of the deal, saying it secured the “single largest increase in border security funding in 10 years” and noted that it broke the Obama-era “parity rule” — that every increase in military spending must be matched by an increase in domestic spending.

“That’s not happening any more, I can tell you…you’re going to have the money we need and the equipment we need,” he said. “Our military is going to be taken care of, that I promise you.”

But Democrats reacted with glee to a supposed victory pulled out of the embers of a brutal November election defeat.

“I think we had a strategy and it worked,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate were closer to one another than Republicans were to Donald Trump.”

Conservatives took to media outlets and TV to express their anger, aimed particularly at congressional Republicans and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“DEMS CELEBRATE ‘REPUBLICAN’ BUDGET!” declared the top headline on the Drudge Report Tuesday morning, accompanied by a grinning picture of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Another headline read: “MORE PAGES THAN OBAMA STIMULUS”

“We do not have a Republican Party on Capitol Hill that can get its act together,” Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday.

“I don’t know how you would carry water for this,” conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said Monday. “Not that I want to; don’t misunderstand. I’m just coming up with new ways to explain what a sellout, disaster, betrayal — whatever you want to call this — it is.”

At a House GOP leadership press conference Tuesday morning, however, Speaker Ryan and other top Republicans defended the package. Ryan touted the “down payment on border security” and dismissed what he called Democrats’ “PR machine” playing up their end of the bargain.

“Don’t look at the press releases, look at the bill,” Ryan said, adding there are “a lot of conservative wins here.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., touted pay raises for military service members and cuts to “areas where we’ve seen government run out of control” like the EPA.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus predicted conservative opposition in Congress.

“Money goes to Planned Parenthood, as you said. Money continues to go to sanctuary cities, but no money for the border wall,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in an interview with CNN.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of conservatives against this plan this week.”

Even before Trump’s tweets, some Republicans looked to defend the bill. They noted that Trump got the defense spending priorities he asked for, while pointing to other victories such as no new money for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, a 50 percent increase for abstinence education, increased funding in the fight against opioid addiction, and another cut for the EPA’s budget.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted that the deal includes $1.5 billion secured for enhanced border security and detention capabilities, and called it a “down payment” on the border wall, which he reiterated is going to get built during Trump’s time in office.

“Make no mistake, the wall is going to be built,” he said. “We have five months left in this fiscal year, we’re getting $1.52 billion for border security, there’s a lot that can be done with that.”

But some conservatives say passing a bill funding Democratic priorities will hurt Republicans down the road in the 2018 midterms.

“I find this to be so demoralizing, disappointing and I think they’re going to have hell to pay for this budget,” Ingraham said.

The bill is expected to go to the House floor Wednesday, and to the Senate Thursday, ahead of the shutdown deadline on Friday.

Fox News’ John Roberts and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.

Mulvaney downplays talk of government shutdown over border wall funding

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney declined to say Sunday whether President Trump will insist Congress include money for his border wall in his proposed 2018 budget or risk a government shutdown.

“We don’t know yet,” Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not going to negotiate with you on national television. We will negotiate with the Democrats.”

Ryan reportedly vows to prevent government shutdown

Congress has until Friday to pass the budget to keep the federal government from technically running out of money, which would result in a shutdown of non-essential services.

Mulvaney reiterated Sunday that one of Trump’s biggest presidential campaign platforms was national security, which included building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members.

“I don’t think anyone thinks a shutdown is desirable,” Mulvaney said.

However, he wouldn’t say whether Trump would risk a politically unpopular shutdown to get his way. And he suggested that Democrats would be to blame because of their demands on an ObamaCare overhaul plan in exchange for border wall funding in the budget.

“We are asking for our priorities,” Mulvaney told Fox News. “I would say is that they’re holding hostage national security. Again, something they’ve supported in the recent past when President Obama was in the Senate. So we don’t understand why this is breaking down like this.”

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested earlier Sunday on CNN that Trump would “insist” on the border wall funding.

Mulvaney also said Sunday that members of Congress, returning Monday from a roughly two-week recess, are working on the budget “as we speak” and that members could pass it and a revised ObamaCare overhaul plan within the next seven days.

“We don’t see any structural reason the House and Senate cannot do both things in a week,” he said.

Trump signing a major bill like ObamaCare repeal and replace into law within his first 100 days of office, which ends this week, would be a major victory for the president.

Trump tweeted several times Sunday about the issue, saying Democrats don’t want budget money paying for the wall “despite the fact it will stop drugs and very bad MS-13 gang members.”

Muvaney also said Sunday that if House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has the votes in the GOP-controlled chamber, Ryan will hold a vote.

However, Ryan continues to say that passing a budget is the top priority this week.

Republicans float new ObamaCare replacement plan

House Republicans are shopping around a new ObamaCare replacement plan, amid pressure to deliver a legislative win as President Trump nears the end of his first 100 days.

“We’re very close,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday at an event in London.

Fox News is told they hope to have revised legislative text in the coming days, and lawmakers are set to discuss the proposal on a conference call this weekend. But it’s unclear when such a plan could hit the House floor or what level of support it might have – Congress is currently on recess, and lawmakers won’t return until next week.

Fox News is told that leaders have not yet tried tallying support for the document on Capitol Hill.

“The question is whether it can get 216 votes in the House and the answer isn’t clear at this time,” a senior GOP aide said. “There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on.”

A White House source said they could potentially have a vote by the end of next week, though they put the chances at 50-50.

The failure in March to pass an earlier replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, amid widespread criticism of the plan, marked a major setback for Trump’s early presidency. He has since turned his attention to foreign affairs – especially the Syrian crisis – but continues to press for a new health care plan, blaming a bloc of House conservatives for the March meltdown.

Complicating any renewed efforts, however, is next Friday’s deadline for Congress to pass a new budget measure. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration likely will have to court Democrats to avoid this scenario. Further, the timetable is tight, with the House not set to return until Tuesday night.

Interestingly, the government shutdown drama and health care could be directly linked.

Just days ago, Trump declared he would yank subsidies known as “cost-sharing reductions” from ObamaCare programs. The government directs the CSR payments to insurers who grant coverage to low-income people. A dried-up subsidy could force insurers to drop ObamaCare and spike premiums for the poor.

Trump views the ObamaCare subsidies as leverage to force Democrats to the table on health care. Democrats contend the president is holding the health care assistance “hostage” and imperiling those who aren’t well off.

“The spending bill cannot be done by one party alone,” opined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before the recess. “These bills can’t pass without a reasonable number of Democratic supporters in the Senate.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and John Roberts contributed to this report. 

Ex-Freedom Caucus member: Some in the group ‘would vote no against the Ten Commandments’

Dylan Stableford 15 hours ago

What’s next for Paul Ryan?

Story highlights

  • Paul Ryan’s signature policy agenda, called “A Better Way,” failed Friday with a vote on health care
  • “We came really close today, but we came up short,” the House Speaker said at a news conference

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan conceded the biggest defeat of his political career Friday: Republicans have failed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

And after nearly three full months into the year, he now has to face a head-on a challenge that is likely to haunt his tenure as speaker for the foreseeable future: seemingly irreconcilable differences among his fellow Republicans.
“Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains,” Ryan told reporters Friday. “And well, we’re feeling those growing pains today.”
The stunning setback was particularly excruciating for the 47-year-old, who made his name in Washington as a conservative policy wonk committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act and ascended to the powerful position of House speaker in fall 2015.
The bill that too many of his fellow colleagues ultimately rejected was based on Ryan’s signature policy agenda, called “A Better Way.”
“I don’t know what else to say other than Obamacare is the law of the land. It’ll remain law of the land until it’s replaced,” he said. “We’re going to be living with Obamacre for the foreseeable future.”
It’s a rough reminder that life is different for Ryan now than before Trump was elected. During the Obama administration, the Republican-controlled House could pass message bills that would repeal Obamacare with impunity, knowing they would die in the Senate or be vetoed by the President.
“This is how governing works when you’re in the majority. We need to get 216 people to agree with each other to write legislation. Not 210. Not 215,” Ryan said at Friday’s press conference. “We were close but we didn’t have 216 people. That’s how legislating works.”
Even before the decision to pull the health care bill, Republican lawmakers were worried about the impact of a potential defeat.
New York Rep. Chris Collins said Friday afternoon prior to the cancellation of the vote that if the health care bill fails, it would leave a “black eye” on his party’s ability to legislate.
“If we don’t pass this, I personally don’t think we pass a 2018 budget. We couldn’t pass a 2017 budget. So if we couldn’t pass a 2017 budget and this happens today, how are we going to pass a 2018 budget?” he said.
“And that’s the vehicle for tax reform. And if you don’t do tax reform, where does the money come from for infrastructure? That’s how critical this vote is today.”
But both Trump and Ryan say they plan to go to tax reform next.
Ryan spoke alone from behind the podium, and he was not flanked by any of the Republican colleagues or White House officials who had furiously worked with him for weeks to try to get the health care legislation through the House.
And while questions are being raised about Ryan’s relationship with Trump, the two have publicly insisted that they have a healthy dialogue.
The Wisconsin Republican said he had directly informed Trump that he did not have the votes, and that the President accepted his recommendation that Republicans yank the bill.
Trump publicly blamed Democrats — not the speaker — for Friday’s failure.
“I like Speaker Ryan. He worked very hard,” Trump said from the Oval Office.
But it will take more than platitudes to unite his party, especially after both conservative and moderate factions demonstrated their strength this week.
The GOP’s internal divisions were Ryan’s gravest challenge, and one he never came close to resolving.
Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus refused to get behind the bill, referring to leadership’s proposal as “Obamacare Lite” that simply didn’t go far enough in gutting the law.
But when Ryan and his deputies attempted to appease that faction by offering to go further than their original bill in gutting Obamacare, that only irked the more moderate lawmakers in the House conference.
In the final days, Ryan worked around the clock to try to bridge the two factions, holding back-to-back meetings and one-on-one sessions. But the differences could not be reconciled.
“We came really close today, but we came up short,” Ryan said at a news conference. “I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us.”

Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on

Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on

The Washington Post
Mike DeBonis, Juliet Eilperin2 hrs ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., departs after speaking to the media after a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Washington.© AP Photo/Alex Brandon House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., departs after speaking to the media after a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Washington. President Trump delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans on Thursday night: Vote to approve the measure to overhaul the nation’s health-care system on the House floor Friday, or reject it and the president will move on to his other legislative priorities.

The president, through his aides, signaled that the time for negotiations was over with rank-and-file Republicans who were meeting late at night on Capitol Hill to try to find common ground on the embattled package crafted by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

The move was a high-risk gamble for the president and the speaker, who have both invested significant political capital in passing legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled dealmaker capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims. If the measure fails, it would mean that Obamacare — something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years — would remain in place.

“Disastrous #Obamacare has led to higher costs & fewer options. It will only continue to get worse! We must #RepealANDReplace. #PassTheBill,” Trump tweeted from his official White House account as the meeting was wrapping up Thursday night.

It was far from clear, however, that Ryan and Trump have the votes to muscle the package through the House after several members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus refused to back it following a marathon session of negotiations Thursday with Trump and other top aides.

“We have been promising the American people that we are going to repeal and replace this broken law,” Ryan said. “Tomorrow we’re proceeding.”

But the speaker refused to answer shouted questions from reporters after the meeting about whether he had the votes to pass the health-care measure.

In a closed-door meeting with House Republicans Thursday night, according to Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told his former colleagues “the president needs this, the president has said he wants a vote tomorrow up or down.”

“If for any reason it’s down, we’re just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda,” Collins described Mulvaney as saying. “This is our moment in time.”

Ryan had intended to bring up his plan for a vote on Thursday. But criticism mainly from conservatives caused that strategy to unravel after Freedom Caucus members rejected Trump’s offer to strip a key set of mandates from the nation’s current health-care law.

“They’re going to bring it up, pass or fail,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).

By evening leaders accepted the proposed change conservatives had rebuffed earlier, which would eliminate the law’s “essential benefits” that insurers must offer under the ACA. Those include covering mental-health treatment, wellness visits, and maternity and newborn care.

They also added one sweetener for moderates, a six-year extension of a 0.9 percent additional Medicare tax on high-income Americans who earn above $200,000 if filing individually, or $250,000 if married and filing jointly. By keeping the tax in place, GOP leaders could provide another $15 billion to help some older Americans obtain health-care coverage.

The negotiations over the legislation continued all day, even after leaders announced they would postpone a vote originally scheduled for Thursday. As evening came, members of the Freedom Caucus filed into the office of Ryan, as did White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Meanwhile, a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday evening showed that changes House leaders made to the bill on Monday do not alter a projection that 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 under the bill. In addition, the updated bill would cut the deficit by $150 billion over the next decade — nearly $200 billion less than the earlier version of the legislation.

The changes include a couple of conservative overhauls to the Medicaid program and language directing that $85 billion be used to help Americans ages 50 to 64 obtain coverage.

It was unclear how the new CBO score would affect legislative support for the bill, although Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who is undecided, said it is “one of the things I’m considering as we read the bill.”

“When we look at the CBO score, we remember the discrepancy between what they said about Obamacare and what took place,” he added, noting that the office had overestimated the number of Americans who would gain coverage as a result of the law. “But it should be a spoke in the wheel.”

The new score wazs not the leadership’s biggest problem. Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, the Freedom Caucus chairman, Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), said House leaders were still seeking another 30 to 40 votes to pass the bill.

“I’m desperately trying to get to yes,” Meadows said. “I think we need to make sure that it lowers health-care costs.”

House leaders confirmed that they still lacked sufficient support. And while conservatives posed the biggest challenge for House leaders, some key moderates are also against the bill.

Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), who has known Trump for decades and whose Staten Island district swung heavily toward the Republican candidate, left the meeting committed to voting no.

“I’ve got to think about the 744,000 people I represent,” he said. Asked about the White House’s message that killing the bill would leave no more chances for repeal, he shook his head. “I don’t believe that.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during an appearance Thursday night on Fox News that the president remained confident the bill would pass.

“At the end of the day, this is the only train leaving the station that’s going to repeal Obamacare,” he said, adding that Trump always knew winning a majority would be tough.

“I think we’re going to see the same level of success” as in last year’s campaign, Spicer said. “He’s left nothing in the field.”

Trump devoted much of his day to personally lobbying members, meeting with conservatives Thursday morning and offering to remove the essential benefits package from the proposal. Lawmakers who support that proposal say it would reduce premium costs for Americans.

But Freedom Caucus members have asked to eliminate more — including language that bars companies from setting insurance rates based on a person’s sex, medical condition, genetic condition or other factors. Their proposal would reverse the ban on lifetime or annual dollar limits on coverage, allow insurers to separate healthy and sick consumers into different risk pools, and undo the law’s requirement that large insurers spend at least 85 percent of what they collect in premiums on claims, and refund the rest.

The only existing mandates Freedom Caucus members are open to preserving are ones that bar insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions and allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

At least 80 percent of the group voted Thursday afternoon to reject the latest offer from GOP leadership and the White House.

“The ball is in their court,” said Freedom Caucus member Andy Harris (R-Md.). “Our position has not changed.”

The president continued to work on cajoling lawmakers throughout the day, meeting at 5 p.m. with members of the moderate Tuesday Group. Meanwhile, Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) huddled with about a half-dozen conservatives in the speaker’s office in an effort to win them over.

Trump, who spoke to a group of trucking executives and employees at a White House event aimed at showing how the ACA had driven up the industry’s costs, joked that he did not have much time to mingle.

“I’m not going to make it too long, because I have to get votes,” Trump said, sparking laughter. “I don’t want to spend too much time with you. I’m going to lose by one vote, and then I’m going to blame the truckers.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 37 House Republicans — mainly conservatives — had announced their opposition to the bill, known as the American Health Care Act.

But several Republican moderates are also balking at the bill. Members of the Tuesday Group and Freedom Caucus agreed to meet Thursday night to try to bridge their differences.

The ongoing effort to whip the vote, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said, has involved “back-patting and butt-kicking.”

“Democracy’s messy,” he added.

This high-wire balancing act, in which Republicans are catering to conservatives in the House with the knowledge that they still must woo moderates to get legislation to Trump’s desk, could not only reshape the nation’s health-care system but could also have uncertain electoral repercussions for the new majority.

But with failure not a viable option, Ryan and Trump have been working furiously to win over the large voting bloc of conservatives who control the House bill’s fate.

Passage of the bill would represent a major political victory for both the White House and House leaders, although the ultimate fate of the legislation hinges on the Senate. There are at least a dozen skeptics of the bill among Senate Republicans, who maintain a slim 52-to-48 advantage, and many of them want to maintain some of the current law’s more generous spending components.

If Republicans fail this initial test of their ability to govern, Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans may face a harder time advancing high-priority initiatives on infrastructure, tax reform and immigration. They might also find themselves navigating strained relationships among themselves.

GOP leaders can afford only 22 defections, given that one Democrat was expected to be absent Thursday. A Freedom Caucus spokeswoman said that “more than 25” members of the group oppose the bill.

Democrats relished the GOP’s predicament. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who had scheduled a 4 p.m. rally against the bill, turned it into a short-term declaration of victory.

“Remember, they wanted to have their repeal and replace ready when Trump was inaugurated,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “Now, here we are — they don’t have it, again. They’re looking for a sweet spot, and they won’t find one.”

Former president Barack Obama, for his part, issued a statement noting that more than 20 million Americans have gained coverage since he signed the law in 2010, while the rise in health-care costs has slowed. The statement came on the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act — a day that Republicans had hoped to mark by dismantling it.

“So the reality is clear: America is stronger because of the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said, adding that Republicans are welcome to work with Democrats to improve the law. “But we should start from the baseline that any changes will make our health-care system better, not worse, for hard-working Americans. That should always be our priority.”

Republicans’ current strategy is based on a new interpretation of Senate rules that raised the possibility that acceding to the Freedom Caucus’s request might not threaten Senate consideration of the whole bill. But aides said the provision could still be stripped out once the bill reaches the Senate.

Republicans can afford to lose the votes of only two senators, assuming Pence would step in to cast a vote for the health-care rewrite in the case of a tie.

In another example of last-minute tweaks, Illinois’ GOP delegation announced late Wednesday night that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma had assured them that “Illinois will have the opportunity to accurately report its 2016 Medicaid payment information to CMS.” The state “has long been disadvantaged by below- average Medicaid reimbursements,” the lawmakers said, and this adjustment will ensure that the state would receive more federal funds when the government shifts to allocating Medicaid dollars on a per capita basis under the bill.

David Weigel, Kelsey Snell, John Wagner, Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.


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