Conservative Groups Rail Against GOP's 'Obamacare-Lite' Repeal Plan

Jacquelyn Martin

Conservative groups railed against the Obamacare repeal legislation released by House leadership this week, taking issue with the refundable tax credits the bill offers, as well as a continuous coverage requirement which critics likened to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

A statement Tuesday from Jason Pye, director of public policy and legislative affairs at FreedomWorks, labeled the GOP bill "ObamaCare-lite." Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, argued the legislation "not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them." The staff of the Republican Study Committee, which boasts 170 members in the House, said in a memo obtained by Bloomberg that the tax credits amounted to "a Republican welfare entitlement.”

Meanwhile, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hardliners known to derail Republican agenda items, is planning its own press conference on the legislation later Tuesday afternoon. The House hardliners will be joined by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has introduced his own Obamacare replacement legislation that has the backing of conservatives.

By lunch time, Americans For Prosperity, a group aligned with the Koch brothers' network, had also come out against the legislation in a letter to Republican congressional leaders. The conservative Club for Growth issued a statement slamming the bill for its tax credit and Medicaid provisions.

"If this warmed-over substitute for government-run health care remains unchanged, the Club for Growth will key vote against it," the group's president David McIntosh said.

The House leadership's bill, titled the American Health Care Act, can afford to lose less than two dozen GOP members in the House and two Republican senators. GOP leaders are also feeling pressure from the moderate wing, and particularly on how to handle the ACA's Medicaid expansion, which will be allowed to continue unchanged through 2020 under the latest bill. That tweak further perturbed the caucus' far-right wing. The Republican Study Committee memo, for instance, said that they had "major concerns" and that the bill would "continue to contribute to the worsening of the federal and state budgets by incentivizing states to maintain expansion or to initiate new expansions and leaving the federal government picking up the majority of the bill."

“Rather than accept the flawed premises of Obamacare, congressional Republicans should fully repeal the failed law and begin a genuine effort to deliver on longstanding campaign promises that create a free market health care system that empowers patients and doctors," Needham said in his statement.

Speaking to CNN Monday night, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a former chair of the House Freedom Caucus who was critical of the leaked drafts of the bill, said that he was unimpressed with the newest version but that he was still had to discuss it with the rest of his caucus.

"My guess is this bill looks a lot like the last one, and we didn't like the last one," Jordan said.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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