Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador went to the White House Thursday, under growing pressure from President Donald Trump to back a House GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010.
But the meeting did nothing to sway Labrador, who remained opposed to the bill and said it was time to slow things down
"It’s better to get it right than to get it fast," he told reporters at the Capitol after the private meeting with Trump.
Labrador gave Trump high marks, calling him "magnificent" in getting all parties heard.
"I think he’s negotiating in good faith and he's doing very good things to try to get this bill to the end," Labrador said.
With Republicans deeply divided over the legislation and a showdown vote set for Friday, all eyes were on the roughly 40 members of the House Freedom Caucus on Thursday.
It’s a group that Labrador helped create in 2015, the same year its members used their muscle to force the ouster of former Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
The Freedom Caucus is now emerging as a major headache for the current House speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who’s trying hard to put together enough GOP votes to approve the bill and deliver for Trump.
In a major blow for both Trump and GOP leaders, Ryan postponed a vote on the bill Thursday when it became apparent it would have been defeated. The delay will give GOP leaders more time to twist arms in hopes of achieving a last-minute win.
Labrador criticized Ryan’s handling of the bill, saying he hoped GOP leaders had learned something.
"It shows that their approach to this bill was not correct," he said. "The irony of this whole process is that we just won a major election: We won the House, the Senate and the presidency and they went back to the same old tactics that John Boehner was using, the brute force, the 'I'm going to tell you what you're going to vote for' instead of a process of ‘let's negotiate, let's talk about it.’ ’’
While Ryan wanted to vote on the bill on Thursday, Labrador called it an "artificial deadline."
"I think we have plenty of time to make this happen," he said.
Idaho’s only other House member, Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, had still not decided how to vote on the bill.
Nikki Wallace, his spokeswoman, said Simpson wants to see Obamacare repealed and replaced but added that "it is impossible to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because changes are currently being made and we haven’t seen the final bill."
But in an interview with National Public Radio, Simpson said he ultimately wants the bill to succeed.
"One of the reasons I don’t want this bill to fail is I don’t want Paul to fail," Simpson said.
Idaho’s Republican senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, have yet to take a position on the House bill.
When he first announced his opposition to the repeal bill, Labrador said that Idaho voters "sent me to Washington to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something that will, once and for all, create a health care system that allows the market to deliver lower costs and focus on patients."
After studying the bill, he said, it fell short of that goal.