Freedom Caucus leaders: House could vote on new AHCA this week; Update: Officially endorse AHCA

Has momentum finally shifted within the House Republican caucus on ObamaCare repeal? The Washington Post reports this morning that the group of conservatives that balked at the American Health Care Act might finally get behind it by this evening. Leading members of the House Freedom Caucus have offered statements of public support for the changes that will give states more jurisdiction on managing mandatory benefits and other moving parts now under federal control with ObamaCare, and a vote may be coming very soon:

White House officials and several Republican lawmakers claimed Tuesday they were nearing a deal on health-care legislation with the House Freedom Caucus, with at least three leading figures in the hard-line group ready to support an overhaul after the dramatic collapse of talks last month.

Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho) — all leaders of the Freedom Caucus and central figures in the latest discussions — signaled Tuesday they are ready to support a new plan, according to two White House officials who were not authorized to speak publicly. A lawmaker close to the Freedom Caucus later confirmed that those members were close to or ready to support the tweaked bill. …

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), another Freedom Caucus member, stopped short of vouching support for the bill, but said “it seems to me it is going in a very good direction.” He said he needs to see the legislative text before making a final decision.

“I would not be the most shocked person in the building if we voted it this week out of the House,” Franks said.

Maybe, maybe not. The House has to pass an omnibus spending bill or a continuing resolution soon enough to give the Senate a chance to pass it before authorization for federal operations ends on Friday night. That has to be the priority now, but it won’t take too much time to pass the AHCA even with its new amendments, either. Paul Ryan pulled it from the floor in March just before its scheduled vote, but its status hasn’t changed; it could be called back to the floor in short order, and a vote would take no longer than an hour.

Perhaps sensing an opportunity to end the distraction, the Club for Growth has offered an endorsement of the new version ahead of their meeting, via e-mail:

“A month ago we said ‘conservatives and moderates… should start by meeting together to see what common ground they have.’ Today, we believe the hard work of Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11) and Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ-03), facilitated by Vice President Mike Pence, has yielded a compromise that the Club for Growth can support,” said Club for Growth president David McIntosh. “Since the AHCA was released, conservatives have done the GOP an enormous favor by pushing for needed changes that will benefit taxpayers, including the immediate repeal of Obamacare’s taxes and block-granting of Medicaid funding to states. While we’re still short of full repeal, this latest agreement would give states the chance to opt out of some of Obamacare’s costliest regulations, opening the way to greater choice and lower insurance premiums. It’s a solution that we’ve supported for weeks, and the time to move forward is now. There’s still more work to be done on this bill in the Senate and on further health care reforms, but any GOP moderates who stand in the way at this point are proving that they simply don’t want to keep their campaign promises to get rid of Obamacare.”

That certainly gives HFC members a big push going into tonight’s meeting. We’ve heard about progress like this before, though, only to discover that members still hadn’t actually agreed on anything. Tonight’s HFC meeting will probably have legislative language to review this time, though, as Politico also reported in parallel that the new version of the bill had been “finalized.” The drama is still real, though:

The million-dollar question: Can Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who helped author the changes, deliver the votes needed to get the bill over the finish line? The North Carolina Republican is said to support the amendment, sources say, but it’s still unclear how many of his group will flip from “no” to “yes.”

There are positive signs, even though the Freedom Caucus appears to have made a conscious decision to say little until discussing the matter at a Wednesday evening meeting.

Reps. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), both of whom opposed prior versions, indicated they will back the legislation once the new provisions are added to allow states to opt out of some Affordable Care Act consumer protections. While DesJarlais is a huge Trump supporter and was visibly torn about opposing the bill last time around, Brat’s change of tone is more notable given his reputation as a care-free leadership antagonist who has zero problem opposing GOP leadership or Trump.

But what about those moderates called out by the Club for Growth? Well …

While MacArthur helped negotiate the plan, many centrist Republicans are wary of the agreement and not happy that the White House pushed the plan further right. They are concerned that it will leave people with pre-existing conditions out to dry, as states could opt out of a regulation baring insurance companies from charging sick people higher premiums.

The centrist Tuesday Group will also meet today to discuss the changes, and it might wind up creating yet another standoff. The White House has begun wooing centrists who were “No” votes on the original version of the AHCA too, which gives the impression of herding cats at this moment, and there’s already more of that on government funding. The bigger problem is the looming deadline on the budget, and getting enough breathing space on that to move back to the ObamaCare repeal. While this will be an important agenda item for the House, it probably won’t get top priority until next week at the earliest.

Update: Apparently they didn’t need to wait until tonight’s meeting:

The Tuesday group will find itself the subject of a lot of pressure now to follow suit. If they do, Ryan may well push this vote up to the earliest possible slot just to get it off his calendar — and onto Mitch McConnell’s.


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