Meadows Pushes Key Changes in Obamacare Repeal Bill

Meadows Pushes Key Changes in Obamacare Repeal Bill
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Despite increasing pressure from the White House and congressional leaders, Rep. Mark Meadows isn’t backing down from his opposition to House Republicans’ legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, seeking significant changes to bring conservatives on board.

Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and conservative colleagues in both the House and Senate have raised major objections in the days following the release of the long-awaited health care replacement, putting in question Republicans’ ability to pass the legislation. They’ve shown no reluctance to voice their objections, publicly criticizing the bill and signaling a willingness to vote against it without fixes.

The North Carolina congressman, in an interview with RealClearPolitics in his office on Capitol Hill Wednesday, said his problems with the bill are multifaceted: he considers the tax credits to help people afford health insurance a government entitlement program; he doesn’t support leaving the Medicaid expansion in place for several years; and he doesn’t believe the bill will do much to lower insurance premiums.

RealClearPolitics' interview with Meadows, the seventh episode in RCP's The First 100 Days series, is available in a podcast here. It includes RealClearPolicy Editor Tony Mills' talk with Jonathan Rauch of the Atlantic. 

“For a Republican, this looks like it’s a new entitlement program and has the potential of being the largest entitlement program that a Republican president would ever sign into law,” Meadows said. “The problem is we’re really not repealing all of Obamacare and we’re really not replacing components with any distinctions.”

Republican leaders and the White House have stepped up the pressure campaign, dispatching high level administration officials to Capitol Hill to meet with conservatives. Members of the Freedom Caucus will visit the White House next week to discuss the bill over pizza and bowling.

Leadership has also tried to blunt the opposition by painting the bill as a major victory. Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday called it a “conservative wish list” and “monumental, exciting, conservative reform.”

And in a private meeting of House Republicans Wednesday morning, whip Steve Scalise put up a picture of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi attacking Republicans’ health care bill side-by-side with a picture of Trump praising it. The message to conservatives was straightforward: a vote against this bill, when it arrives on the floor, is a vote for Obamacare.

Meadows rejected the binary as a “false choice.”

“To suggest that this is the only plan, and this is a choice, as the whip would say, between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump ... is putting Donald Trump in a very bad place,” Meadows said. “They’re using that as a selling point, but I can tell you that the last person that wants to be in a fight with president Trump is me. Most of these people that are out there doing that, they didn’t campaign with him. I did.”

Meadows did more than a dozen events with Trump during the campaign, according to a spokeswoman, and at an event in North Carolina in July, he even led a crowd in a “lock her up” chant, according to the Washington Post. And his colleague, Rep. Jim Jordan, the former chairman of the Freedom Caucus who is also against the current GOP health care plan, campaigned with both Trump, Vice President Pence and Trump’s sons Don Jr. and Eric in Ohio.

“I find it interesting that the very people that had the biggest problem with this president are now supposedly going to point to the Freedom Caucus, when most of us — Jim Jordan and I, specifically — campaigned with the president in our homes states of Ohio and North Carolina when other members couldn’t be found,” Meadows said. “Now all of the sudden, there’s a choice between Nancy and Donald Trump? I don’t get it.”

Meadows said he has a good relationship with Trump – though he has an old cell phone number for the notoriously available president, and hasn’t tried it since his inauguration. He said several weeks ago, Trump called him out of the blue to check in, without twisting his arm over anything.

“It was a memorable moment for me just because he was willing to just pick up the phone, the most important person on the globe, calls to just check on me and had no ask,” he said. “That’s the kind of genuine guy [he is].”

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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