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House Conservatives Worried Leadership May Cave on ObamaCare Repeal

GOP conservatives in the House are worried that establishment Republicans like Speaker John Boehner and his buddies may betray them once again, this time with the effort to repeal ObamaCare.

Conservatives want to use the reconciliation process, which allows the Senate to pass laws with a simple majority instead of a 60-vote supermajority, to repeal ObamaCare. As a result, the House conservatives gave ground last month and supported the proposed budget to avoid infighting in the party.

But now, House Republican leaders seem to be backing off their support for the reconciliation process, preferring to wait until the Supreme Court rules in King v. Burwell, which could invalidate tax subsidies obtained through federal exchanges. Doing so would cripple ObamaCare, because states with their own exchanges could not depend on the federal government for support.

In addition, Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-NC), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) offered a proposal that would guarantee coverage to Americans even if they are sick, essentially echoing elements of ObamaCare.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the Freedom Caucus who was largely responsible for House conservatives approving the budget despite their qualms about the defense budget and the general fiscal impact, is adamant that reconciliation be utilized, saying, “It’s imperative that [Obamacare repeal] be the focus for our reconciliation instructions.” He also asserted, “We told [the voters] time and time again, we are committed to getting rid of this law. So, let’s make sure we keep this thing front and center in the political debate, put it on the president’s desk [and] actually make him veto it.”

Conservatives would like to set up a showdown with Barack Obama in which they forward a bill to him that he would have to veto, thus showing the conservative base that House conservatives mean business about ObamaCare.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), a Freedom Caucus member, said darkly, “We haven’t gotten specific directions; no one has come out and said we’re definitely going to do this. Whenever it’s discussed, it’s: ‘These are the various things we could put into [reconciliation],’ and the first one is always the repeal of Obamacare. But no one has ever come out, that I’m aware of, and said, point-blank, ‘Obamacare is going to be it.’”

Some House leaders think reconciliation should be used to amend Obamacare rather than repeal it, an idea that irritates conservatives such as Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who snapped, “Save Obamacare? I don’t know why we would save Obamacare… I’m worried about stopping Obamacare. Fixing it?”

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) was even more blunt, warning that there will be a “whole-scale uprising in the base” if reconciliation is not used to repeal ObamaCare. He said, “I don’t think King v. Burwell is the magic bullet. The overwhelming majority of folks at the [Freedom Caucus] meeting — and we have 40 members — believe that Plan A has to be reconciliation to pass a repeal.”

If King v. Burwell invalidates the health care subsidies, some GOP members are concerned they will be blamed for Obamacare’s failure to help the roughly 8 million people who could lose their subsidies if they don’t have a substitute; but others prefer to say that Obama and his minions wrote the law and should take the hit.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) joined Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to issue a statement last week urging the budget committee to stay the course on a repeal of Obamacare and might write a letter to Republicans en masse to reiterate their point.

But GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina told POLITICO, “As much as I’ve been a strong opponent of the Affordable Care Act … we’ve got to do the responsible thing and make sure those people aren’t harmed in the process.”

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