Welcome to the GOP’s Obamacare war room -- coffee and pastries not included

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, left, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Each weekday morning, groggy aides pile into House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s conference room and suit up for battle.

No pastries. Bring your own coffee. The niceties are limited.

The sunny space belies the daunting work as the Capitol office is transformed into a Republican war room for the GOP’s Obamacare overhaul.

Passage of the GOP’s American Health Care Act is the first — and perhaps biggest — legislative test for President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.


The war room’s job is to keep Republicans marching ahead on their campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“This is obviously going to be a huge lift for us,” said one Republican leadership aide, granted anonymity to discuss the private meetings. “We all need to be on the same page. Our teams need to be in sync.”

That job got tougher after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected 24 million more Americans will be uninsured if the bill passes — essentially wiping out the gains made by Obamacare.

The GOP’s Obamacare bill already faced stiff resistance, particularly from within the ranks of Republicans, which was partly why McCarthy assembled the top GOP aides for the morning confab.

Such strategy sessions are not unusual for a party trying to push a legislative priority across the finish line. In fact, Senate Democrats have operated a perpetual war room on the other end of the Capitol for the past decade.

But this latest effort from McCarthy, the Bakersfield Republican, could not come quickly enough.


Every morning, aides from the White House and Republican leadership hash out the opportunities — and obstacles — as they try to push the bill through the House.

Trump’s team arrives from one side of Pennsylvania Avenue; Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s staff comes from the other. The GOP whip’s office, which will be in charge of counting votes, joins, as do other GOP leadership offices.

The aides go over talking points, take stock of supporters versus detractors and set the media message for a day of interviews and TV appearances.

“It allows everyone to start the day on the same page,” said another GOP aide involved in the meeting.

McCarthy launched the war room earlier this month to coincide with the rollout of the Republican bill.

On Tuesday, after Republicans made changes to the bill to attract more votes, the war room prepared for battle.

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