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Republicans Have No Room for Error in Latest Health Care Push

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Image: House Speaker Paul Ryan Speaks To Media After House GOP Conference Meeting
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) answers questions following a meeting of the House Republican caucus at the U.S. Capitol April 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan answered a range of questions relating to passing a continuing resolution to continue to funding the U.S. government by the end of the week, and the tax proposal being presented by U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)Win McNamee / Getty Images

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

GOP has no margin for error in revived health care push

NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Alex Moe report that Republicans “are growing more confident” that they are close to the votes needed to pass their renewed and revised push to repeal and replace Obamacare. But NBC’s whip count underscores that they have no margin for error — and that’s under the best-case scenario.

According to our count, 20 House Republicans are firmly against the legislation, and they can afford to lose only 22 to hit the magic number of 216 votes for passage (assuming no Democrats back the bill). But that doesn’t tell the whole story: The momentum, at least right now, appears to be going in the wrong direction for GOP leaders, per HuffPost’s Matt Fuller. “Instead of members who were ‘no’ coming out in support Monday, the weekend seemed to calcify the most ardent moderate opposition and leave a number of members who are usually reliable cheerleaders of leadership’s agenda with lingering questions... Even some GOP deputy whips, members who are normally dispatched to do leadership’s bidding and build support for proposals, reported on Monday that they were undecided. David Valadao (R-Calif.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), who actually lives with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) when they’re in D.C., all reported Monday that they hadn’t made up their minds.”

Bottom line: Republicans may be close — and certainly closer than they were last month — but they need to have almost all of the undecideds break their way. And they can’t afford any more defections.

The 20 Republicans who are against the bill

  1. Charlie Dent (R-PA)
  2. David Young (R-IA)
  3. Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
  4. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
  5. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
  6. Barbara Comstock (R-VA)
  7. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
  8. Ryan Costello (R-PA)
  9. Dan Donovan (R-NY)
  10. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
  11. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
  12. Jeff Denham (R-CA)
  13. Thomas Massie (R-KY)
  14. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
  15. Walter Jones (R-NC)
  16. Billy Long (R-MO)
  17. Mark Amodei (R-NV)
  18. John Katko (R-NY)
  19. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
  20. Dan Webster (R-FL)

And the 16 (at the very least) who are undecided:

  1. Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
  2. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FLA)
  3. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
  4. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
  5. Mike Bost (R-IL)
  6. Susan Brooks (R-IN)
  7. John Faso (R-NY)
  8. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
  9. Tom Garrett (R-VA)
  10. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
  11. Tom Reed (R-NY)
  12. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
  13. David McKinley (R-WV)
  14. Hal Rogers (R-KY)
  15. Louis Gohmert (R-TX)
  16. Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)

And our undecided list doesn’t include Valadao, Stefanik, and Paulsen who were mentioned above as House Republicans who haven’t make up their minds.

Trump’s doozy of a Monday: “It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history”

On “Nightly News” last night, NBC’s Peter Alexander noted how President Trump said Monday he’d be “honored” to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. ("If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it.") He raised eyebrows in commenting about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War. ("He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War” -- when Jackson died 16 years before the war began.) And Politico has more on Trump’s Monday: “The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was ‘looking at’ breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.”

As presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told Politico, "It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history.” Added a senior administration official about all of Trump’s different interviews: "They were not helpful to us," the official said. "There was no point to do all of them."

Today’s special primaries in South Carolina

Today, per NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald and one of us, Republicans and Democrats will each face off in separate primaries in the race to replace Rep. Mick Mulvaney in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District. The district voted for Trump by a wide margin in 2016 (57%-39%). Mulvaney won his most recent re-election race by 20 points (59%-39%). Unlike in Georgia’s 6th District, where Democrats and Republicans ran together in an 18-person “jungle primary,” the two parties in South Carolina are holding separate contests. But in each case, if no candidate tops 50% of the vote in their party’s primary, there will be a primary runoff between the top two vote-getters two weeks later on May 16. The general election will be held on June 20. A handful of third-party contenders will also be on the general election ballot then.

Who are the Republicans? It’s a crowded race on the GOP side, with seven Republicans on the ballot. The top contenders on the GOP side are considered to be former state Rep. Ralph Norman, state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, and former state GOP chairman Chad Connelly. Another candidate who’s been in the news is conservative activist Sheri Few, who received national attention and a rebuke by the pastor of Emanuel AME Church after she released an ad in which she defended the Confederate flag while wielding a military-style rifle.

Meanwhile, three candidates are facing off on the Democratic side. The favorite is tax expert and former Goldman Sachs adviser Archie Parnell; his two opponents are Army vet Alexis Frank and Marine Corps veteran Les Murphy. Parnell is aiming to avoid a runoff by getting over 50%.

Trump’s day

At 11:30 am ET, President Trump participates in presenting the Commander-in-Chief trophy to the U.S. Air Force Academy… And at 12:30 pm ET, he speaks with Russian President Putin by phone.