WASHINGTON – A highly placed source in the House Freedom Caucus told WND that lawmakers in the conservative group have absolutely no fear that President Trump will retaliate against them if they vote against the health-care bill backed by the White House.
The source also indicated the American Health Care Act is dead for all intents and purposes, because, WND was assured, there are 25 HFC members “firmly” against it.
Only 21 GOP “no” votes are needed to kill the legislation in the House, presuming every Democrat also votes against it.
Conservatives have scorched the bill as “Obamacare lite,” contending it is not a true repeal of the Affordable Care Act or an adequate replacement that will lower costs and increase consumer choices. They argue it maintains insurance subsidies, mandates, taxes and insurance company bailouts.
Politico ran a story Tuesday headlined “Trump to Republicans: Vote for Obamacare repeal or lose your seat” that reported the president had delivered a stern warning to conservatives that they could lose re-election races if they oppose the bill pushed by GOP congressional leadership and the White House.
During a Tuesday morning visit to Capitol Hill to pitch the legislation, the paper said, Trump “called out the bill’s most vocal critic in the House, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C.,” and “singling out Meadows in front of his colleagues sent a clear message: Trump wants him to get in line. And fast.”
The HFC source dismissed the report and said Meadows and at least 24 other members of the group will vote against the bill without any fear of retribution by the White House.
The source noted that, later in the day, during the White House press briefing, administration spokesman Sean Spicer “walked back” any impression of a threat by making it clear the president was joking with Meadows.
A reporter said Meadows “seems like a nice guy” and asked whether the president had decided to campaign against any member of Congress in upcoming GOP primaries if that lawmaker had opposed the health care bill.
Spicer dismissed that notion, observing that Meadows was a long-time and early supporter of the president.
The press secretary then explained that Trump “had some fun at his expense this morning during the conference meeting, and I think he continued to express hope that Congressman Meadows, who’s the head of the Freedom Caucus, would continue to see the efforts that have been made to make this better and address a lot of the concerns out there.”
“But,” Spicer reiterated, Trump “has made it very clear that he was having fun with him. The president is committed to making sure that this gets passed. We’ll go from there.”
Indeed, Politico noted Trump “winked and he smiled at Meadows, and acknowledged the congressman was a strong supporter of his campaign.”
The paper also quoted Meadows as saying he didn’t think Trump would target him if he voted against the bill because of his long and strong support for the president during his campaign.
“When the chips were down, there was one member of Congress in North Carolina that was willing to campaign with him,” Meadows said. “I can’t imagine he would do anything different.”
Trump did warn House Republicans that if they don’t pass the bill, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018.”
But the HFC source told WND just the opposite could turn out to be true, and a bill that leads to rising health-insurance premiums would be a “setup for failure” in the 2018 elections.
That was still true, according to the source, even after GOP House leaders rolled out more changes Tuesday, including one intended to make it easier for older Americans to purchase insurance by creating even more tax credits to offset higher premiums.
The source said, “This is just a bad bill,” and there’s no way most HFC members can support it without more substantial changes.
However, Politico reported that after Meadows visited Trump at his Florida resort over the weekend to discuss changes favored by conservatives, the White House had signaled that “negotiations were closing, and conservatives had gotten all the concessions they would.”
If that is true, and the HFC source is correct, conservatives will kill the bill scheduled to come up for a House vote Thursday.
The source also noted, even if the bill were to pass in the House, the numbers do not favor passage in the Senate.
It would take only 51 votes to pass in that chamber, but there are only 52 GOP senators. And four of them oppose the bill: Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; and Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Conservatives opposed to the health-care bill designed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other House leaders and pushed by the president would rather just see Obamacare repealed in its entirety and then deal with replacement.
Former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C, penned a commentary piece published in the Hill Tuesday advising Republicans to “first remove the cancer on our health care system (the 2015 repeal bill) and then pair the refundable tax credits with cost-cutting legislation to open up interstate competition and alternative insurance arrangements.”
Sen. Paul and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, even reintroduced the 2015 bill repealing Obamacare that was passed by Congress but vetoed by then-President Obama.
Former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told WND earlier this week: “An Obamacare fix? Easy.
“All the federal government needs to do after repealing Obamacare is to pass a bill that allows any health insurance product to be sold across state lines with no minimum federal mandates. Period,” she explained.
And, Ann Coulter tweeted Tuesday, “Ryancare not only destroys any chance of reform, but guarantees single payer and demoralizes us with more politicians who can’t keep promises.”
The bill appeared even less likely to pick up converts after conservatives were incensed to learn Tuesday that GOP leaders had just dropped a provision from the legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants getting federal health-insurance coverage.