Conservatives back revised health bill, GOP moderates balk

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Getty Images

WASHINGTON ― House Republicans appear closer than ever to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, after the House Freedom Caucus formally endorsed a revised version of the GOP health care bill and moderates looked to be largely going along with the changes.

The culmination of weeks of negotiations between Meadows and MacArthur, the compromise amendment aims to unite the House's centrist and conservative Republican wings behind the health care bill.

House Republicans introduced a health care amendment Tuesday night that would allow individual states to opt out of Obamacare's provision prohibiting insurers from charging higher rates for those with pre-existing conditions, with one catch: Members of Congress and their staff would be exempt from the higher premiums.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus said Wednesday it is supporting a plan aimed at bridging the internal Republican Party divide between moderates and conservatives on health care reform. "Tom MacArthur explained his amendment - I do believe we're trying very desperately as a team to get to yes".

"While I appreciate this week's effort by Speaker Ryan and his leadership team to better protect older Americans from health-care cost increases, the difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed", she said in a statement back in March.

Republicans need 216 votes to pass the health bill - they can afford to lose 22 votes.Already a handful of other moderates have said they remain a no vote on the bill, including Reps.

"(It's) an exercise in blame shifting", Dent told reporters.

"I think people's seats are at risk if we don't do what we said we would do", Ryan said. The revisions were authored in part by Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, a leader of the Tuesday Group of House moderates, but a number of other members of the group feared the result could be to weaken important protections.

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The change would allow states to scrap what the caucus described as the "cost driving aspects" of Obamacare.

The Club for Growth issued a thinly veiled threat against Republican moderates who might vote against the amendment if it comes to the floor. So I guess that means Obamacare was not almost as much of a disaster as GOP members first insisted it was. He had to abruptly cancel a vote on an initial version of the bill because of opposition from moderates and conservatives alike.

GOP leaders have said they would continue to work on health care, but haven't set a date.

The Texan is the second Republican congressman to leave the caucus.

Representative MacArthur is a co-chair of the Tuesday Group, and his amendment granting waivers to the states is a bargaining chip to sway the roughly three dozen members of the Freedom Caucus to vote for Trump's bill.

Republican members claim the exemption was done to avoid violating Senate budget rules.

However, "given the extreme divides in the Republican Party, allowing Texas and SC to make different decisions on health insurance regulations than NY and New Jersey may be the only way forward", said the group's CEO, Mike Needham.

Odds of passage of the new bill are low, and even if it passes the House, many Senate Republicans have seen how poorly the bill polls and are unwilling to stick out their necks for an unpopular Trump.

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