House Freedom Caucus backs amended GOP health care bill

PHOTO: Members of the House Freedom Caucus, (L-R) Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) participate in a Politico Playbook Breakfast interview at the W Hotel, on April 6, 2017, in Washington.PlayMark Wilson/Getty Images
WATCH House speaker Paul Ryan says a new health care bill is gaining support

The conservative House Freedom Caucus, which stymied recent efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare last month, announced Wednesday that it is backing the GOP health care bill with the inclusion of the MacArthur Amendment.

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"Due to improvements to the AHCA and the addition of Rep. Tom MacArthur’s proposed amendment, the House Freedom Caucus has taken an official position in support of the current proposal," a statement from the group read.

"While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill."

While the group's support for the AHCA marks a significant development, it doesn't necessarily guarantee there are enough votes to pass the measure just yet.

The announcement also doesn’t mean that every member of the caucus of roughly 40 House Republicans will back the bill. The larger group isn't bound by the official position, but only a handful of no votes are expected.

One loyal Freedom Caucus member, who was one of the first Republicans against the GOP health care bill, told ABC News today he's undecided.

"I’m struggling with compromising on a position that still leaves Americans in a bad position, versus the risk of not doing anything that leaves Obamacare in place and Americans in a worse position," Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, told ABC News today.

The White House isn't taking no for an answer: Rep. Brooks said he's spoken with Vice President Mike Pence twice over the phone today, and during one of their conversations, handed the phone to President Trump.

Even if all House Freedom Caucus members are on board, GOP leaders will still need to the support from moderate Republicans.

Many say they are still reviewing the amendment, and several centrist Republicans who opposed the initial bill have indicated they don't support the new amendment.

Some moderates who previously planned to vote yes on the initial bill - including Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado - now say they are undecided.

When asked if the MacArthur amendment will get Republicans to 216 votes it needs to pass the AHCA bill, Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We think it's very constructive.”

“I think it helps us get to consensus,” Ryan said during a press conference today on Capitol Hill.

Ryan also said he would hold a vote on health care “when we get the votes.”

In March, Republicans failed to garner enough support in March for its health care reform plan, the American Health Care Act. Divisions among House Republicans resulted in Speaker Ryan pulling the AHCA from the House floor moments before a vote.

Following the first big blow to his legislative agenda, President Trump attacked the House Freedom Caucus and some of its individual members on Twitter, writing that the group would “hurt the entire Republican agenda.”

The MacArthur amendment, proposed by moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., will make essential health benefits — requiring plans to cover things like prescription drugs or maternity care - the federal standard but offer limited waivers to states that want to handle things differently and can prove that their approach will lower the cost of health care or increase coverage.

So long as states can create and fund a high-risk coverage pool for affected consumers, they can apply for limited waivers from the community rating provision of the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

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