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Exclusive–Rep. Mark Meadows: I Promised President Trump I Would Negotiate Obamacare Repeal-Replace in Good Faith

Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. Mark Meadows (R.-N.C.) told Breitbart News on Friday that he will work with moderate Republicans to pass better Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation than the bill offered by Speaker Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) — as part of his understanding with President Donald Trump.

“Based on my conversations with the president and the vice-president, they want to get it right, and they want to get it done quickly,” said Meadows. “They also want to make sure they reduce premiums for Americans–and when that happens, we’re in total solidarity with our president and vice-president.”

The congressman said the American Health Care Act does not have the mechanisms to reduce premiums, nor costs, until further on down the path of replacement of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“I want to applaud the president, having met with him yesterday,” he said.

“He’s negotiating in good faith. I committed to him that I would negotiate in good faith,” Meadows said. “The only troubling thing that I continue to hear is that no amendments are going to be going to be allowed to be made in order. Certainly, no amendments were supported by either of the chairmen in either of the committees of jurisdiction.”

As part of his good faith commitment to the president, Meadows said he would work with more moderate Republicans, whose districts are less conservative than his, in order to find common ground.

One of the frustrations Capitol Hill conservatives are dealing with is the contrast between the 2o17 repeal effort and the 2015 repeal effort.

In December 2015, Republicans in the House and Senate passed an Obamacare repeal bill authored by Rep. Tom Price (R.-Ga.). Price is a physician and now the secretary of Health and Human Services, but in 2o15, he was the chairman of the House Budget Committee. The Price bill was the “root and branch” repeal conservatives demanded from the party. Although it was vetoed by President Barack Obama, conservatives expected the return of the 2015 bill as the opening move, followed by a replacement bill that combined parts of Obamacare that had already become part of the national consensus and a transition period that gave the economy and body politic time to adjust.

The RyanCare bill was crafted to be “RepealPlus,” Meadow said.

“The 2015 bill that all of us vote on? He doesn’t want to do,” he said. “He is saying that the reason why he doesn’t want to do the 2015 bill is that it won’t pass in the Senate. Well, my encouragement is to send it over to the Senate and let them amend it and then they can send it back to us.”

Meadows said he does bank on promises of future reform and adjustments.

“In Washington, D.C., you have to make the assumption that the only thing that is going to get done is the one thing you are voting on today,” he said. “History shows us that if count on just the thing you are voting on today to get done, that is a more prudent calculation than assuming that you vote on something and assuming you’ll get three or four things that may or may not happen.”

This back-and-forth between the two chambers is the normal legislative process Ryan and the Republican leadership are hoping to avoid. If the RyanCare bill can progress through the House and Senate unchanged, then there is no need for a conference to reconcile two versions of the same bill. In a conference, the power shifts to the Senate from the House because a senator chairs the conference committee. For Ryan, the additional risk is that a conference committee is free to produce whatever bill they come up with for votes in the House and Senate.

There is a suspicion on Capitol Hill that the RyanCare language is frozen because of agreements made between the Republican leadership and insurance company representatives when the bill was written. Certainly, it is strange for a  bill to be touted as the return of “regular order” when it was developed outside the committees, without hearings.

It also has not escaped notice among conservatives that not a single Republican member of either the Ways and Means Committee nor the Energy and Commerce Committee offered amendments to the RyanCare bill in their committee markups.

Ryan dropped his bill Monday at 6 p.m., as members were coming back to Washington from the weekend recess and with no outreach to conservative media.

A leadership staffer familiar with the RyanCare rollout told Breitbart News that the rollout was part of the party’s 200-day plan that takes Capitol Hill Republicans from January through Labor Day.

January and February were devoted to confirmations and regulatory relief through the Congressional Review Act, the staffer said.

March is devoted to passing leadership’s health care bill, the staffer said.

The RyanCare bill is meant to be the first phase of the process, and it is written in such a way as to preserve its status as a privileged motion through the budget reconciliation process. Republicans hold a 52-to-48 majority in the Senate, but for regular legislation, there is a 60-vote requirement to close debate and bring up a vote.

Because the Republicans do not have the 60 votes required for cloture, they must use the budget track, which means the repeal bill can only address budget-related issues. Further changes to the PPACA legislation are vulnerable to Democratic efforts to extend debate indefinitely as long as they control 41 votes.

This maneuver is the filibuster and Republicans are anticipating that once the financial underpinnings of Obamacare are restricted through the budget bill, enough Democrats will participate in the process to pass the additional phases of replacement.

As a practical matter, the House Republican Leadership must get to 216 votes, not 218, because there are five vacant House seats. The House Freedom Caucus does not list its members publicly, but during the 2015 fight to remove-and -replace Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio), it was accepted that the HFC was solid for 30 votes.

With 237 sitting Republicans, 22 defections are enough to kill the RyanCare bill on the floor.

In the recent past, so many Republicans have bucked the House GOP leaders that the Republicans needed Democratic votes to pass leadership’s compromises with Obama and the Democrats. There were 67 Republicans who voted against the Dec. 11, 2014 “Cromnibus” budget deal. Sixty-two Republicans voted against Ryan’s two-year budget agreement with Democrats in 2013. In the so-called fiscal cliff vote Jan. 1, 2013, 151 Republicans voted against the Republican leadership.

But these votes were before Ryan took the gavel and Trump moved into the White House.

The next hurdle for the American Health Care Act is the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Diane Black (R.-Tenn.).

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