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Published: Tue, May 02, 2017
World | By Lorena Waters

Conservative caucus backs GOP health bill but fate uncertain

Conservative caucus backs GOP health bill but fate uncertain

It's still a real question whether Republicans have the votes.

The Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group, of which Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) is a member, sidelined the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in March, and a new amendment is pulling in support from conservatives who want to see something closer to a repeal.

Moreover, as USA Today pointed out, it "leaves numerous mandates from Obamacare in place", including bans on charging men and women different rates and denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

In a statement, the Freedom Caucus said it could support the proposal as amended by MacArthur.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday backed away from a threat to immediately withhold payments to help people with modest incomes with out-of-pocket medical expenses under Democrat Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Mark Walker, the leader of the Republican Study Committee, said that while leadership didn't put a "concrete timeline" on when a vote on the health care bill would happen he said "I do believe there will be a vote on this by early next week". If you're a Republican lawmaker already skittish about the bill, what about the new plan changes your assessment?

"I'm telling any and every member that we need to get this done", Collins said. And while they'd still be required to cover people with preexisting conditions, they could charge those patients higher premiums.

"We're hopeful there'll be action in the House of Representatives soon", Pence also said. "How can they argue they've protected lives when they just handed the gun to someone else?"

Trumpcare 1.0 was derailed because it was too cruel for moderate Republicans, who wanted to preserve many of Obamacare's benefits, and too generous for conservatives, who wanted to gut them entirely. And the House's arch-conservatives are eager to pass off responsibility for the failure of Obamacare, and so there've been noises about the House holding a vote on the new bill this week. But he could not say if those members had previously supported or opposed the bill. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), whose South Florida district Trump narrowly won, could not decide how he planned to vote as he saw the legislation move to the right. "I'd like to see them wrestle with this for a while". Moderate Republicans objected to the bill because they weren't comfortable throwing millions of people off of Medicaid and dramatically increasing the cost of private insurance for non-affluent senior citizens in rural America.

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Still, a vote for the bill will give Democrats a new arsenal of attack points about broken promises to use in future elections.

Rep. Leonard Lance, a moderate Republican opponent of AHCA, tells me he's still a no despite the MacArthur/Meadows changes.

"I am now working on further reforms to the AHCA that could alleviate some of my concerns".

Members of the group, which was co-founded by Rep. Jim Jordan of OH, had predicted their counterparts would rally behind the proposal, particularly after it was endorsed by two leading conservative advocacy groups. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said he was undecided and would prefer a bill that goes far further in erasing Obama's law. "I'll let you know when I make my decision", she said.

This same moderate/conservative impasse will play out again in the Senate if and when the hot potato makes it into Mitch McConnell's hands.

Caucus attorney Mark Moore said he hasn't reviewed the lawsuit but is comfortable with the caucus's legal positions. It's much safer to publicly sound wishy-washy and privately oppose the bill.

In a statement, the Freedom Caucus said while the new package "still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower health care costs".

"So this is simply a matter of blame-shifting and face-saving", said Dent. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill.

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