Freedom Caucus Won’t Block Obamacare Repeal Plan

The conservative group isn’t taking an official position on the budget, making GOP leaders’ task easier.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Jan. 11, 2017, 5:22 p.m.

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.

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