The House Freedom Caucus decided Wednesday afternoon not to take an official position on the House budget, freeing up their members to vote however they want on a resolution crucial to repealing Obamacare, according to a source familiar with their deliberations.
The budget is largely a procedural measure, but sets up a framework to repeal the health care law while avoiding a Senate filibuster. Conservatives in the Freedom Caucus have been pressing leadership to detail how they plan to replace the law before agreeing to go ahead with the budget vote.
House GOP leaders have been whipping the budget this week, but without most of the Freedom Caucus, they likely would not have the votes necessary to pass it. The Freedom Caucus often holds internal votes on whether to support bills, and if 80 percent of the group votes a certain way, the group must vote as a whole. Although some conservatives will still likely vote against the measure, avoiding that binding vote means that Freedom Caucus members who want to support the budget can do so without repercussion.
The decision is a victory for House Republican leaders, who have been facing headwinds in their attempt to sell the first step of Obamacare repeal to their conference. It is also not clear that the Freedom Caucus was successful in forcing leadership to reveal details of their Obamacare replacement plan. Members were also assuaged by comments from leadership that a budget later this year will attempt to balance in 10 years and that an Obamacare replacement will come soon after Congress passes their repeal.
Either way, the Senate must first pass the budget, and they are likely to spend all night voting on amendments. Even if Senate leaders can prevent Democratic amendments from sinking the resolution, conservative senators, such as Sens. Rand Paul and Tom Cotton, are joining moderates, such as Sen. Susan Collins, in calling for their leaders to outline a replacement plan before repealing the health care law.
Similarly, moderates in the House have expressed apprehension about voting for the budget before knowing what would replace Obamacare. Tuesday Group Cochairman Rep. Charlie Dent said Tuesday that he and his colleagues are concerned that moving too fast toward repeal without a clear plan to replace Obamacare could leave Republicans in the lurch later this year.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Sen. Rand Paul.