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Trump warns GOP: Vote for Obamacare repeal or lose your seat

(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump on Tuesday bluntly laid out the political stakes for Republicans if their bid to overhaul the healthcare system falters out of the gate, saying failure would imperil the rest of their agenda and ultimately their congressional majorities.

His remarks to a closed-door meeting of House Republicans at the Capitol came just over 48 hours before leaders hope to have the House vote on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his lieutenants are still working overtime to secure additional commitments from Republicans, particularly among the members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, to get to a majority.

If the bill passes, it would move on to the Senate with a goal of enacting legislation before the Easter recess, although many senators have expressed doubts that the process can move that quickly in their chamber.

Trump told the House members that after promising voters for years that they would repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have little choice but to vote for the bill now before them. He singled out a leader of the Freedom Caucus and early campaign supporter of his, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, to encourage him to come on board.

“Because honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks,” Trump said according to sources present for the discussion.

“The president was very direct. We get this done, and tax reform, he believes we pick up 10 seats in the Senate, and we add to our majority in the House,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), another longtime Trump backer. “And if we don’t get it done, we lose the House, and we lose the Senate.”

Republicans largely called the discussion upbeat despite the president’s warnings, but there was no mistaking the uncertainty surrounding the final outcome. Trump wasn’t making political threats, but clearly laying out the consequences, attendees said.

“President Trump was here to do what he does best, and that is to close the deal,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said afterward. “I think our members are beginning to appreciate just what kind of a rendezvous with destiny we have right here.”

Several leading conservative members, though, remained on the fence, even after the hard sell.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), a member of the Freedom Caucus, said most lawmakers from the group opposed the bill ahead of the morning meeting, but Trump’s all-in warnings were a “selling point.”

“We’ll see what happens,” said Griffith, who was leaning in favor. “He was very personal, and he said we need to work together as a team… but that we have to stick together or else this will fall apart and the American people will lose confidence that we can get things done.”

“It is a selling point,” he added. “For some of my friends, you have to get a little bit more conservative in the bill in order to get them to feel comfortable with it.“

(Alex Wong / Getty Images) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Associated Press) (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency) (AP) (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images) (Lenny Ignelzi/AP) Haider Abadi in Baghdad in 2014 (Pool) (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)