(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Enough House and Senate conservatives now oppose leadership's Obamacare repeal and replacement plan that the bill would fail without their votes. But instead of caving to their demands, leadership is plowing ahead, assuming members won't dare to vote against Obamacare repeal at the end of the day.

"I think it's bad practice to say what you will never do, because eventually we're going to have to vote for a bill," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters. "And it's not going to be perfect. And if we don't do that, then we will have failed one of our most basic promises to voters, that we'd repeal and replace Obamacare."

But this turns into a game of chicken, because the conservatives aren't backing down either. "I am not going to go along with something that harms my constituents just so I can say that I've supported something that has a different name than Obamacare," House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told me.

The big issue: The hardliners don't like the tax credits to help people in the individual market buy coverage, although it's only one of many problems they have with a leaked draft of the plan. While moderate Republicans say people need help affording their premiums — and might even say the size of the credit in the leaked plan isn't big enough — conservatives are calling it another entitlement program. "Rolling out a massive new entitlement program is not the right approach to go," Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters.

Compare that to Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander. When asked whether a tax credit will end up in the bill, he said, "It could very well. A tax credit which would help lower-income Americans buy insurance has been one of the provisions in almost every one of the Republican proposals that have been made over the last several years."

OK, but: There may be some room for compromise. Yes, some conservatives will not like individual market assistance no matter what it looks like. But other ideas, like only giving tax credits to those who financially need them, could win over some hesitant members. "Means testing might be one of the options" for compromise, Meadows said.

But there are still other problems: A big one is the House GOP's proposed cap on the tax break given to those with employer-sponsored insurance, which is the only major source of revenue in the plan. Another is the overall cost of the plan, which is tied to the fact that the tax credits would be given to everyone on the individual market.

And then some members just want a straight repeal. "I think the repeal should just be repeal. That stuff can be in a replacement bill," said Rep. Jim Jordan, referring to various pieces of a replacement plan.

Why this matters: Former Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, summed this up well for me: "It's going to be most difficult to try and get the 218 votes" needed to pass a bill in the House, "knowing that everybody's got a certain standing where they are."

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Health

Fauci says if people won't wear masks, maybe it should be mandated

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Graeme Jennings- Pool/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN on Friday evening that if "people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it."

Why it matters: Fauci made the comments the same day the U.S. hit its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began.

Harris to Black voters: Casting a ballot is about honoring your ancestors

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks at a "Get Out The Vote" rally at Morehouse College. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris appealed to Black voters in Georgia on Friday, urging them to "honor the ancestors" by casting ballots, and again calling President Trump a "racist."

Why it matters: The U.S. saw a significant decline in African-American voter turnout between 2012 and 2016, reaching its lowest point since 2000. Higher turnout among Black Americans this year could tip the balance in favor of Democrats in key battleground states, including Georgia.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months.
  2. Sports: The youth sports exodus continues — Big Ten football is back.
  3. Health: U.S. hits highest daily COVID-19 case count since pandemic began —AstraZeneca to resume vaccine trial in U.S.How to help save 130,000 lives.
  4. Retail: Santa won't greet kids at Macy's this year.
  5. World: Spain and France exceed 1 million cases.