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What was said at GOP House dinner? Depends who you ask

Future House speakers Jose Oliva and Richard Corcoran dined with a group of freshmen Republicans Tuesday to talk about the House's Medicaid expansion alternative.

That much we’re sure of.

But what happened around the dinner table depends on whom you ask.

One version: Oliva and Corcoran attended a casual dinner meeting to answer questions and provide insight into the House plan, so members could better understand the options ahead of them.

Another version: Oliva and Corcoran threatened freshmen Republicans -- some of whom have been targeted by TV ads in their districts by supporters of a more inclusive Senate plan -- to hold the House GOP line.

Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said Wednesday he isn't forcing anyone to vote in favor of the House plan, but he is angry that groups are trying to sway moderate and Hispanic Republicans to vote against his plan. SEIU Florida workers union is behind the ads, and the Florida Hospital Association has also been a vocal opponent of the House plan.

He denied that House Republican leaders have used similar tactics. He went to the meeting Tuesday night to help freshman understand HB 7169 and answer any of their questions, he said. As long as they make an informed decision and stand firm on their beliefs, Corcoran said, he won't criticize anybody's vote.

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has filed an amendment that will replace the House proposal, HB 7169, with the Senate plan. The Senate's proposal, SB 1816, would be eligible for $51 billion in federal funding to insure 1 million people. House Democrats have pledged to support Fasano's amendment when it comes up for a vote Thursday, but they still need 15 additional Republicans to create a majority.

Fasano, who returned from the House last year after a decade in the Senate, said he wasn't invited to Tuesday's dinner meeting. But he said he talked to someone who has received a clear message from House leaders.

"That member was given a tongue-lashing for even considering opposing the House bill," he said, declining to name the colleague.

Without pressure from leaders, more House Republicans would support his amendment, Fasano said.

"They should not be pressured, they should not have their arm twisted, they should be allowed to vote their conscience," he said.

The focus is on House Republicans to accept the Senate plan, which is also backed by Gov. Rick Scott, or agree to a compromise. Corcoran said no deals have been reached, but discussions are ongoing.

"We are constantly talking with the Senate about trying to find a way to help the safety net population and improving the health care system," Corcoran said.