Freedom Caucus Won’t Back Bill After WH Meeting: ‘Nothing Has Changed’

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Following a Wednesday meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus at the White House, members were blunt that the conversation did not change many minds.

“Nothing has changed,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) told reporters after the meeting.

After Trump made his pitch for the health care bill Tuesday on Capitol Hill, members of the Freedom Caucus continued to voice opposition to the AHCA and warned that they have enough votes to block its passage. Their dissent prompted the Wednesday meeting at the White House.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told reporters that many members of the caucus still weren’t ready to get on board after the meeting.

“I think that a number of folks aren’t quite there yet,” he said.

When asked if the Trump administration seemed open to making changes to the bill, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) told reporters: “Not really.”

Rep. Scott DeJarlais (R-TN) described the meeting to reporters as “constructive” and “respectful.” He said that members of the caucus met with Pence, along with White House advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

DesJarlais said that White House officials did not make any concrete promises.

“I don’t think that there were any promises made. I think that there were a lot of good ideas shared, and I think people are chewing on it right now,” he told reporters.

He said that the White House thinks that improvements to the bill can be made later. Asked if the White House was pitching the bill with substantive changes or politics, DesJarlais told reporters, “It’s always both. It’s never one or the other. But certainly the President is a get things done kind of guy, and he doesn’t want to have his agenda slowed.”

He said he has been personally pushing to remove a requirement that health plans cover essential health benefits from the bill. Asked if the White House said it could not make that change, DesJarlais told reporters that White House officials “said it would be tough.”

The congressman didn’t think the meeting changed many minds and estimated that were were still enough “no” votes to block the bill.

“I would be surprised if there’s enough defections to not have the votes to — for the bill not to succeed,” DesJarlais told reporters.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chair of the caucus, told reporters after the meeting that his position had not changed.

“We had a great meeting with the Vice President. They are fully engaged,” Meadows told reporters. “But I can say this at this particular point, we need changes to the underlying bill before we vote in the House.”

As the Freedom Caucus continued to dig in their heels in opposition to the bill, AsLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), told reporters that the speaker was still meeting with members “to discuss their concerns or potential changes that they are asking for.”

This post has been updated.

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