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Tensions High as House GOP Tries to Revive Obamacare Repeal

Friday, March 31, 2017  
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House Republicans appear to have made little progress in their attempt to revitalize the effort to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law following a stunning defeat last week.

  

GOP lawmakers held a series of meetings across the Capitol this week to discuss the path forward on the legislation, including a Republican-only Energy and Commerce meeting on Thursday about health care and separate meetings of the Republican Study Committee and the moderate House Tuesday Group on Wednesday.

 Both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan also ramped up their exhortations to Republicans to unify as a party to ensure they don’t have to rely on Democrats to advance any major changes to the health care law. Lawmakers who backed the bill are still optimistic a deal can be reached.

 But House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), said Thursday he did not anticipate the bill would be voted on before the spring recess.

 House Freedom Caucus members, whose opposition sunk the bill last week, say a deal is not imminent.

 “All rumors,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the group's chairman, said Thursday when asked about the possibility of a deal in the works. “There’s ongoing discussions among a whole lot of rank-and-file members and how we can get to yes.”

 Frustration with Freedom Caucus

Leaders have largely avoided publicly blaming last week’s failure solely on the Freedom Caucus.

 

 But under the surface, aides and lawmakers say House GOP members are enraged at the efforts by the Freedom Caucus to undermine the repeal effort that Republicans campaigned on for seven years.

“I don’t think there’s any effort whatsoever to get together with the Freedom Caucus,” Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), a member of the Tuesday Group, stated. “They caused this, let them live the consequences.”

While House leadership had a heavy hand in negotiating the legislation that was pulled last week, Republican lawmakers say negotiations are now happening among rank-and-file members in hopes that the conversations will re-energize the process.

 Several House Freedom Caucus members say they are discussing the bill with the moderates. Meadows, for example, noted he was in conversations with Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a co-chair of the Tuesday Group.

But Tuesday Group members say those claims are false, and placed the onus on leadership to spearhead the negotiations.

 “To be clear, the Tuesday Group is not talking to the Freedom Caucus,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), explained. “A phone call may have [happened]. We had a meeting in the Tuesday Group yesterday and those kinds of discussions came up and we were absolutely united we are not talking to the Freedom Caucus.”

 In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, Ryan expressed concern that the inability of House Republicans to join together could motivate Trump to look to the other side of the aisle.

 “This is a can-do president who’s a business guy, who wants to get things done, and I know that he wants to get things done with a Republican Congress. But if this Republican Congress allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I worry we’ll push the president into working with Democrats. He’s been suggesting that,” Ryan said.

 Supporters' Hopes

Nevertheless, some lawmakers who supported the bill are optimistic legislation could move before the upcoming April recess.

 

 "I hope that we do something next week, that would be great. I would love it if we did," Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), said. "We're going to keep working until we get there."

 Some Energy and Commerce members are even suggesting that the upcoming April recess could be canceled to allow more time for the chamber to continue its work on the measure.

 "We did talk about whether or not we ought to have an April recess," Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), said. "My position is we shouldn't leave town without getting this fixed."

 Collins of New York said it was up to Ryan and other leaders to determine how to proceed. 

 “Our committee’s done what we were supposed to do, we got a bill through rules and we had it ready to go on the floor. I would say the mood here is it’s not our committee's role at this point, it’s really the speaker’s role,” Collins said. “We have not been asked to go back and rewrite legislation.


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