GOP Lawmakers Point Fingers As Obamacare Repeal Impasse Remains

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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It appears Republicans hoping to see an Obamacare repeal vote in the House before Easter recess are out of luck.

GOP lawmakers left Tuesday night’s meeting on repealing and replacing Obamacare asserting the discussion was positive and progress was made in terms of striking a deal. But the divide between the different factions of the conference has been amplified as members have already begun pointing fingers at those culpable for their failure to strike a deal.

Vice President Mike Pence, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and White House Chief of Staff Reince Piebus met with top Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee and the Tuesday Group, which represent the different sects of the conference, late into the night in an attempt to aid negotiations on changes to the legislation. Lawmakers left the meeting encouraged they could bridge the gap on key provisions. The optimism was short lived. Heritage Action and Club for Growth, two of Washington’s most powerful conservative advocacy groups, blasted moderates Wednesday morning, alleging the Tuesday Group isn’t serious about repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Following the White House-backed repeal legislation getting pulled off the floor in March, the House Freedom Caucus took the brunt of the heat for the political blunder, with critics accusing the group of “continuing to move the goal post” during negotiations. A number of moderates —  who pulled their support for the initial measure after concessions to conservatives — appear to be growing disenchanted by the renewed negotiation efforts.

HFC Chairman Mark Meadows said they are continuing to keep an open mind during negotiations, but want to ensure they are voting for a measure that will actually bring down premiums.

“I’m still optimistic that everybody’s working in good faith and hopefully it will happen this week,” he told reporters. “At the same time I think it’s important to set realistic expectations that passing a bill between now and Friday is still a Herculean task.

Meadows noted they are still waiting to see text from the White House on changes to the bill, which they will then review before deciding if they will support the measure.

While some still hope they can reach a deal quickly, conservatives’ call to repeal a number of the Title I regulations is leading to push back from moderates. Talk of allowing states to obtain a waiver to exempt themselves from ACA regulations — which would allow for them to opt out of the essential health benefit requirements and the community rating system — has been one of the biggest sticking points for Tuesday Group members.

“I have seen nothing in terms of reported possible changes to American Health Care Act warranting reconsideration,” New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo tweeted. “I remain a NO.”

Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho echoed Heritage Action’s sentiments, saying certain moderates campaigned on repealing Obamacare, but don’t actually want to follow through on their promise.

“We said in ‘ A Better Way’ that (repealing Obamacare) meant repealing all of the regulations that drive the cost of health insurance to go up,” he told TheDCNF. “And now they’re balking at even giving the states the ability to decide if they want to repeal those regulations.”

New York Rep. Chris Collins, a member of the Tuesday Group and Trump confidant, said he thinks the HFC is being”disingenuous” when they say they’re negotiating in good faith. Heritage Action has “gone way off the deep end,” he added.

“They’ve lost all credibility within our conference,” Collins told reporters. “We no longer myself and other moderates we don’t care whether they’re scoring a bill or not we don’t care what our heritage score is.”

RSC Chairman Mark Walker said members may need a “cooling off period” before they are able to come together.

“We had a great conversation and consensus on the high-risk sharing component, we figured out where there were some differences on the Title I, we kind of made an agreement on where those pick up — some of those have not honored that agreement today and it’s disappointing,” RSC Chairman Mark Walker told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Those who attended Tuesday’s meeting were expected to reconvene Wednesday to continue talks, but as of early-Wednesday evening, nothing was on the schedule.

While a handful of Tuesday Group Members have balked at the White-House backed proposals to make changes to the bill, leadership said they don’t believe reports of substantial losses of moderates’ support is an accurate depiction of where the conference currently stands on health-care reform.

“I know they have some concerns, some of the options that others were bringing up that they couldn’t support those options, but they haven’t pulled out of the base bill where we are, ” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told TheDCNF.

Some members have called for Congress to stay in session to continue its work on the legislation. But leadership, which has largely taken a backseat in the second round of negotiations, has repeatedly said putting an “artificial timeline” in place could be counterproductive in their efforts to construct a good bill.

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