The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus told Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday night that he and President Donald Trump agreed to changes to the American Health Care Act, which had been destined for defeat on the House floor Thursday.
“I am really optimistic that we can get there; there are still a lot of details to work out,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R.-NC), whose bloc of north of 25 “No” votes is enough to sink the AHCA bill that was crafted by Speaker Paul Ryan (R.-WI) as a rescue program for insurance companies.
Capitol Hill conservatives were angry when Ryan put forward his bill as the only Republican legislation reforming national health care policy. In 2015, every Republican in the House and Senate voted to pass a repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which created Obamacare.
Instead of bringing back the 2015 full repeal bill, Ryan developed the American Health Care Act—RyanCare—in private working groups with insurance industry representatives, congressional staffers, and selected congressmen. The text of the bill was posted March 6 at 6:00 p.m., and the text remained unchanged as the bill passed through the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Budget committees.
If a final deal is struck and the RyanCare bill passes, the credit goes to Meadows, who early in the negotiations promised the president he would negotiate in good faith and continued to talk to the White House, even after Ryan and his team stopped talking to Meadows Tuesday.
Fellow House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Dave Brat (R.-VA) told Hannity that Meadows and the president were in touch with each other several times a day, as they worked to perfect the RyanCare bill.
In the past two weeks, House Republicans have accepted that the leadership was not going to allow the 2015 bill to come back, so they have focused on the essence of any reform: How do we lower premiums?
There are many moving parts, but conservatives have told the president and their leadership that they want to eliminate RyanCare’s revised individual mandate and essential health benefits requirements.
If there is movement from the Freedom Caucus, it would have to be related to these two items.
Brat said he stands with Meadows as he tries to make the bill one for which conservatives can vote.
Any deal had to have the effect of bending the cost curve down, he said. “There’s a heavy lift out there. We’re negotiating that heavy lift, and it will be the real deal.”
The House Rules Committee met Wednesday and adjourned without passing the final rule on how RyanCare would be debated on the floor and the degree to which amendments would be allowed. The Rules committee is called the “Speaker’s Committee,” because its members are hand-picked allies of the Speaker, and the committee is one of the instruments a Speaker uses to control legislation. It is significant that the Rules Committee failed to vote on and approve a rule for Thursday’s floor vote.
Meadows said it would not be accurate to say there was a settled deal, but that he and the president have reached an agreement in principle.
“I can tell you that the president is engaged, not only with the Freedom Caucus but with the unbelievably broad spectrum of the GOP Conference,” he said.
It is also important to word the amendment properly, so as to survive Senate rules, Meadows added.