President Trump, Freedom Caucus reach 'agreement in principle' on Ocare repeal and replace
President Trump and the conservative group called the Freedom Caucus have reached an agreement in principle on repealing and replacing Obamacare.
If the deal holds, it should bring at least some conservatives on board the House bill. But opposition to the legislation runs deep on the right, and the modest changes agreed to might not be enough to swing a majority of Republicans in the bill's favor.
"I think what we're trying to do now is make sure that our agreement is actually something that can be executed in a way that passes the Senate," he added. "There's still work to be done, but I can tell you that the president is all engaged."
The round-the-clock negotiations between the White House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus have centered on adding to the bill a repeal of ObamaCare's "essential health benefits," as well as other insurance regulations in Title I of the existing health law.
But those changes have now alienated some centrist Republicans, who huddled with Ryan and his leadership team for more than two hours Wednesday night to discuss the impact of moving the bill to the right.
After the meeting, one of the leaders of the centrist Tuesday Group, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), announced he was opposed to the legislation, warning that the bill would cause too many Americans to lose insurance coverage.
"I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans," Dent said, "particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals."
Meadows said President Trump has been the crucial factor in working toward a deal and even personally called him during a Freedom Caucus meeting Wednesday night.
The talks center on conservatives' request to repeal ObamaCare's "essential health benefits," as well as other insurance regulations in Title I of the health law.
A GOP source said the White House has offered to include repeal of the essential health benefits in the bill.
"Our request has been consistent about Title I and essential health benefits and so that's really what we're discussing," Meadows said earlier in the day as he left a meeting with Freedom Caucus colleagues.
"We're encouraged just based on the real willingness of not only the White House but our leadership to make this bill better," he added, noting he hopes to work around the clock to hopefully have a final deal by around noon Thursday.
While repealing the mandated health benefits portion of Obamacare is significant, many on the right are still dissatisfied with several aspects of the legislation, especially the section of the bill that allows Medicaid expansion through 2020.
Meanwhile, the agreement makes a deal with the Senate even less likely. The problem is, the Senate will look to repeal Obamacare using the process of reconciliation, which needs only a majority vote to pass. But reconciliation can be used only in certain specific circumstances. And repealing essential health benefits isn't one of them.
But President Trump is playing the long game. First things first, and that means getting a bill out of the House. He'll worry about the Senate next week.
I think we're looking at the probability that two separate, very different repeal and replace bills will emerge from the two legislative chambers, with Trump making his supreme effort when a conference committee meets to iron out differences between the two bills. We'll see how steadfast conservatives will be if that happens, because there are several "no go" parts of the House bill for the Senate that simply won't fly and a few Senate amendments that House conservatives will never accept.
President Trump's negotiating skills are going to be tested to the max.