Some in the GOP might be willing to let Obamacare repeal efforts fade into the night, but the House Freedom Caucus isn’t willing to let the issue die just yet. Leaders of the conservative House group are pushing for a clean repeal bill that mirrors the 2015 legislation that Obama vetoed. If successful, it could come to the floor as early as September.
“There’s no reason we should put anything less on President Trump’s desk than we put on Obama’s,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). “President Trump wants to sign repeal — it’s time Congress send it to him.”
This follows the Senate’s failure to even vote on a milquetoast repeal and replace bill. There has been lots of back-and-forth and starts-and-stops without getting anywhere. Consequently, the fate of repeal efforts has become cloudy.
The Freedom Caucus hopes to ratchet up pressure on the GOP leadership in the House and Senate and prevent the issue from disappearing. Rather than arguing over replacement options, they want to return to straight repeal, which had overwhelming support in the past. By forcing a vote on a clean Obamacare repeal bill that mirrors the 2015 legislation, they would put their GOP colleagues on record as to whether they still support the bill they previously voted for. This vote would be especially difficult for many moderate and liberal Republicans, who quietly support Obamacare but voted for clean repeal when they knew Obama would veto it.
The Freedom Caucus will not be alone in its push. Some members of the House’s Republican Study Committee have privately asked for the opportunity to vote on a clean repeal before the August recess. Outside support is also expected from conservative groups, such as FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.
Forcing such a vote requires bypassing House leadership using a “discharge petition”. Such a petition needs a majority of the House membership – 218 members, which will be difficult to obtain. But by pushing the signature collection, conservatives hope to put pressure on their colleagues, by identifying members who have abandoned their previous support of repeal.
Since no big government entitlement program has ever been repealed, this effort is Herculean in the eyes of folks inside the Beltway. Obamacare’s repeal remains important to a lot of voters, but in D.C., many would love to turn the page. So one of the most important aspects here is just keeping the issue alive. That is paramount. Between insurance lobbyists and Congress’ big government tendencies, there is lots of resistance to the Freedom Caucus’ efforts. But as long as they can keep people focused on Obamacare’s repeal, they keep the embers of the seven year-long promise glowing.