With some of its members serving in key House of Representatives leadership positions and others heading influential conservative groups, Republicans in North Carolina’s congressional delegation are split over the House GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
House members currently opposed include Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Walter Jones.
Among those uncommitted is Rep. Mark Walker, while supporters include Reps. Robert Pittenger, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, George Holding and Richard Hudson.
Walker heads the House’s conservative Republican Study Committee. He’s taking a wait-and-see approach to the bill, hoping that significant changes will be made and make it easier for his charges and members of Meadows’ Freedom Caucus to eventually support it.
“We’re leaning to support with a couple of provisions where a couple of these things get taken care of. Specifically, even one would be a long way for a lot of our members to jump on board and move for it strong,” Walker said Thursday.
Meadows echoed Walker’s sentiment Friday, saying, “My commitment to the president is that I would work extremely hard to negotiate in good faith to make sure this bill is better and actually drives down health care costs and insurance premiums.”
Meadows is concerned the bill doesn’t fully repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and would create a new Medicare-like federal entitlement that would add to the national debt.
Jones, though, is staunchly opposed to the Republican bill because the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t estimated its cost.
“I am not in favor of supporting any bill that you can’t get a score (cost estimate) on,” Jones said. “So today, and probably tomorrow, and next week, I’ll be a no.” An estimate is expected shortly.
Pittenger, however, said that while the bill isn’t perfect, that shouldn’t stop lawmakers from passing it.
“If there are modifications that can be made to make it politically achievable, let’s go for what we can get,” he said. “I’m a Ronald Reagan conservative: Let’s make the major changes, 80 percent of a loaf, and I’m happy.”
The bill would replace Obamacare’s income-based subsidies with tax credits based more heavily on age, end the requirement that most people get health coverage, cut federal funding for local public health programs, bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal money and phase out enhanced federal funding for newly eligible Medicaid recipients.
More than 500,000 North Carolinians get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Only one insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, offers plans through the marketplace in all 100 counties.
McHenry, a Republican from Denver, North Carolina, is a chief House deputy whip. His job includes bringing enough Republican lawmakers on board to make sure the bill passes. With all Democrats expected to oppose the legislation, Republicans can afford to lose only about 20 votes.
Raleigh Rep. Holding, who supports the bill, said he wasn’t fazed by early criticism from staunch conservatives in the Republican Study Committee and Freedom Caucus.
He thought the back-and-forth is good and will help make the legislation better in the end.
Foxx, chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is also supportive, saying the legislation delivers on the Republican Party promise to do away with the Affordable Care Act.
Hudson is a firm “yes,” though he said House Republicans “still have a lot of work to do” on the bill.
“While this bill isn’t perfect, it represents the biggest entitlement reform in a generation,” Hudson said. “This is good, conservative health care reform and one phase of the process to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
If the measure passes the House, it faces a potentially tough time from many Republicans in the Senate , largely from conservatives who think it doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare. Also wary are some moderates who have concerns about cutting funding for Planned Parenthood.
Burr said he looked “forward to working with my colleagues to fulfill our promise to the American people to repeal and replace Obamacare with solutions that make health insurance more affordable and that give families more control over their own health care.”
Tillis called the bill an important first step but added that “my Republican colleagues would be making a mistake if they become content with failing to produce the perfect at the expense of achieving good, practical solutions to reform our nation’s broken health care system.”
Tony Pugh, Sean Cockerham and Alex Daugherty contributed to this story.