Freedom Caucus Chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, has joined the growing chorus of conservative voices concerned about the current state of the Senate healthcare bill. According to Rep. Meadows’ spokesman Ben Williamson,
“Rep. Meadows believes the current version of the Senate bill would not have the conservative support to pass through the House, but we’re optimistic that the issues can be resolved.”
The Freedom Caucus has not yet issued an official position on the Senate bill, which is more moderate than the House’s American Health Care Act. (An official position may come in the future though.) So, this could be a statement of political reality on Capitol Hill as much as Rep. Meadows’ opinion on the quality of the current legislation. Like other conservatives, he sounds like he wants to be able to work out the differences, but the Senate bill just doesn’t have the reforms necessary to be worth supporting yet.
Conservatives are seeking true reforms and not simply tinkering with Obamacare. Meaningful change is critical both from a policy and a political standpoint. Indeed, with the House’s AHCA bill’s poor polling numbers, the reforms will likely need to be strong and meaningful to be worth the political risk.
Rep. Meadows statement is separate from a letter sent by 28 House members of the Republican Study Committee this week, which conveyed “serious concerns” about the Senate bill. They warn of the unlikelihood of its passage in the House without core conservative reforms. They outline “four components” necessary for potential passage in the House – 1.) phase out Medicaid Expansion, 2.) provide states waivers, 3.) repeal new Obamacare taxes, and 4.) protect unborn children.
Rep. Meadows’ comments also follow a joint statement by Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ron Johnson expressing their own concerns. At this point, all four say they cannot support the current Senate healthcare bill. Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two votes. This legislation has been a source of significant wrangling and negotiation as McConnell attempts to win the support of 50 GOP Senators. The original bill started off shaky, drawing immediate concerns from conservatives. Since then, it has been watered down even further as moderate Senators seek to “fix” Obamacare instead of repealing and replacing it. With so much tension from the left and the right of the Senate’s GOP caucus, the bill’s future is in doubt. Still, the Senate hopes to vote on it before the July 4th recess.
If the Senate passes the bill, then the House can either vote on it or go to conference committee with the Senate to hash out their differences. With so many conservatives voicing concerns, an up or down vote in the House seems unlikely to succeed. Thus, conservatives are anticipating a conference committee. In that vein, Rep. Meadows tweeted out that he is “looking forward to going to Conference and following through on our promise to #RepealObamacare”. But with such disparate legislation from the two chambers of Congress, any final bill coming out of conference faces an uncertain road to become law.