House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said Thursday that "I am still a no" on the American Health Care Act after Republican leaders canceled a vote on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"I am desperately trying to get to 'Yes,'" the conservative North Carolina Republican told reporters after the vote cancellation was announced. "I think the president knows that. I told him that personally.
"With all of the Freedom Caucus, they are really trying to get to yes," he added. "That's why we met for such a long time.
"It was, at times, not contentious — but I would say very rigorous debate."
House leaders announced the AHCA vote would be delayed until Friday morning, after House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled a news conference on the status of the vote count. The lower chamber was expected to vote late Thursday on the legislation.
"We will move the vote until [Friday] morning, so we do not end up voting at 3 o'clock in the morning," White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN. "That is what's happening.
"The debate [Thursday night] is going on as planned," she said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN that leadership would vote on a measure to schedule the vote Friday morning.
"There is not enough time to take place [Thursday night] because we'd have to go to rules and move forward," the California Republican told Dana Bash. "But we will vote tonight on a rule that will allow us to vote [Friday].
"We'll have conference a little later this evening, bring people together about where we are.
"We've made progress [Thursday]," McCarthy said. "It's our hope that we'd be voting [Friday] after debate."
He also said leaders lacked the votes for AHCA to pass Thursday.
"I think we need a couple more to get together," McCarthy said. "The president had made great progress with individuals.
"We just need to make sure everybody is there and we'd be able to solve this problem."
The Freedom Caucus has vehemently opposed the plan since it was introduced by Speaker Ryan earlier this month.
Members have slammed it as "Obamacare-Lite" — and have charged that it would do nothing to lower premiums and control costs.
They also have attacked the provisions regarding optional Medicaid block grants to the states, saying that they amounted to another entitlement.
The caucus also vowed to formally oppose the bill unless major changes had been made by Wednesday. News reports this week indicated as many as 26 Freedom Caucus members would oppose the plan.
The caucus posted this tweet hours before the vote was cancelled:
In addition, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated more than 24 million people would lose coverage under ACHA.
Meadows told reporters "progress is being made" and slammed "this artificial deadline" of a Thursday vote as "actually something that we imposed on ourselves."
He praised President Donald Trump's involvement in lobbying Freedom Caucus members for ACHA and denied the delay was a setback for the White House.
"The president's engagement is unparalleled I believe in the history of our country to actually engage a number of members, whether they be moderates or conservatives," Meadows said. "It's indicative of a president that wants to solve problems.
"The Freedom Caucus is committed to working with the president to get this done."
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