Meet The Other Group Of Conservatives Holding Up Obamacare Reform

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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President Donald Trump has blamed the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) for the GOP’s failures to repeal and replace Obamacare, but another lesser known faction of the party also deserves blame.

The HFC is comprised of some of the most ideological conservatives Republicans in the House, with a few more moderate members in the mix. Unlike other caucuses and committees, the HFC does not publicly disclose its membership, making it difficult (if not impossible) to lock down its full roster. There are at least 36 verified members of the HFC, with Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina serving as the group’s chair, giving the caucus a sizeable influence when members band together on big votes.

On occasion, the caucus can prove an impediment to policy making, as it did with the Republican’s first attempt to pass health care reform–the American Health Care Act. It can be difficult to get the group to rally behind a particular bill or policy, because the group typically sticks to an informal rule: at least 80 percent of its members must be in agreement before the group can give its support.

While the HFC was against the AHCA, its leadership at least consistently tried to negotiate. The day before the AHCA went up for a vote, HFC Chairman Mark Meadows, following a meeting with the president, said that he, and his fellow caucus members, were still “desperately trying to get to yes.”

Meadows has been in consistent discussions with Ryan, Vice President Mike Pence and other Republicans since the AHCA’s failure in March. Meadows promised Tuesday to deliver a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare to Ryan’s desk once Congress reconvenes following its two-week recess.

The Tuesday Group on the other hand, a coalition of “centrist” Republicans in the House, is proving itself more of a roadblock for Trump and Congressional leadership as they try to upend former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care bill. The group took a hard-line against the AHCA in March, and the majority of its members continue to oppose every subsequent Republican proposal.

Like the HFC, the Tuesday Group has no official roster. Much less is known about the membership. Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, and Elise Stefanik of New York serve as the co-chairs of the Tuesday Group. The fourth-highest ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, is also a member.

Trump and Republican House leaders face a difficult obstacle with the Tuesday Group, whose members aren’t unified by a singular ideology like the conservative HFC, nor do they engage in the consensus voting behavior that marks the HFC. The Tuesday Group also manages to eschew large amounts of media coverage, because it operates largely behind the scenes. But until recently, the Tuesday Group has been a reliable voting block for House leadership.

Unlike the HFC, members of the Tuesday Group are refusing to negotiate on Obamacare repeal and replacement. After Trump and Ryan pulled the AHCA, the Tuesday Group shut out entirely the possibility of moving forward with repealing Obamacare.

“I am not negotiating with anyone,” Dent told reporters. “I’ve seen stories that there are discussions about certain negotiations between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus. That’s not the case. Do I talk to other members? Absolutely. Am I negotiating with anyone about the bill that was just put aside? No.”

“We do not want to enter into negotiations,” MacArthur said.

It is interesting then that the HFC, not the Tuesday Group, took the brunt of the backlash after Trump and Ryan were forced to pull the AHCA. Trump went so far as to threaten to throw his support behind HFC challengers in 2018, although he has not publicly called out the Tuesday Group.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

Trump’s response is understandable, given that repealing Obamacare was one of his chief campaign promises. But his anger may be better placed with members of the Tuesday Group.

Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham told reporters in April the Tuesday Group’s recent actions show its members “clearly want to keep Obamacare in place.”

Needham has a point. Tuesday Group members campaigned, some of them in multiple cycles, promising to repeal Obamacare. The group voted in near unanimous fashion twice in 2015 to repeal Obamacare. Now the same lawmakers are standing in Trump’s way, without offering a cohesive set of demands that could act as a basis for negotiation. In fact, they aren’t really offering anything at all.

MacArthur and Dent led the opposition charge for the group in January, nearly two weeks before Trump took office. The pair voted against a House resolution that started the process of repealing Obamacare, a measure that passed on Jan. 13 without their support. Only nine Republicans in the House voted against the measure.

For his part, MacArthur has made some initial efforts to negotiate, but remains unwilling to get behind a proposal.

Instead of providing alternative proposals or engaging in the ongoing negotiation process, the congressmen are putting forth a rather ironic message: lawmakers need to work together to get health reform through Congress.

“I hope that the House can step back from this vote and arbitrary guideline to focus on getting health care reform done right,” Dent tweeted on March 23, just one day before Ryan and Trump pulled the AHCA from the House floor.

MacArthur doubled down on his colleagues recommendations. “The only way we’re going to repair our broken health care system is if we work together to fix the problem,” MacArthur posted on his Facebook page March 24. “Just saying no, which requires no effort at all, or pointing the finger of blame at others is of no value. It is time for action together.”

Dent also took it upon himself to remind leadership that their efforts to sway conservatives were fruitless, as they were never going “to vote” for favorably in the first place.

MacArthur’s and Dent’s offices did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation for comment.

Others within the Tuesday Group say they can’t support any of the proposals because they would leave too many in their districts uninsured — a rallying cry among progressive groups and congressional Democrats. Others have specific requests, like asking for spending cuts before agreeing to any future repeal bills.

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