Conservative warns McConnell to not give up on ObamaCare repeal

Conservative warns McConnell to not give up on ObamaCare repeal
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A leading House conservative is warning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) he should not quit fighting to pass legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare through the Senate.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is not happy about talk that Senate Republicans might give up that effort and instead work with Democrats on legislation to shore up troubled insurance markets.

“If we’re waving the white flag on something that we’ve campaigned against for many years, it is not a good sign for what comes down the pipe. How many white flags will we raise just when the going gets rough?” Meadows told The Hill in an interview.

“It’s incumbent on us to work, to negotiate and find a happy medium that gets 51 votes in the Senate, 218 votes in the House and send it to the president,” he added.

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Meadows is reacting in part to comments McConnell made Thursday that suggested he might be getting closer to throwing in the towel on the healthcare effort.

“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to private health insurance markets must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club meeting in Kentucky.

McConnell’s statement is one of several recent signals that the Senate bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, is in trouble.

Conservatives and moderates have dug in their heels this week over a controversial proposal sponsored by Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah) to allow insurance companies to sell health plans that don’t comply with federal requirements as long as they sell options that do qualify.

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Senate Democrats welcomed McConnell’s statement as a sign that the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare is wobbling and that GOP leaders are getting closer to moving on to other issues.

“It’s encouraging that Sen. McConnell today acknowledged that the issues with the issues with the exchanges are fixable, and opened the door to bipartisan solutions to improve our healthcare system,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (N.Y.) said in a statement Thursday.

“Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the law,” he added.

If legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare fails, states will need billions of dollars over the next few years to keep insurance companies participating in unprofitable marketplaces.

But Meadows warned on Friday that any proposal to funnel taxpayer money to insurance companies to stabilize the market will fall flat with House Republicans.

“There is zero chance you would find enough Republican votes on the House side to do that,” he said.

Meadows said he was willing to look at federal payments to insurers to prevent a premium spike during a transition period, but only for a transition period.

The Obama and Trump administration have made cost-sharing reduction payments to reimburse insurance companies for providing coverage to sicker individuals because of federal mandates.

The Senate healthcare bill includes a $50 billion short-term market stabilization fund covering years 2018 through 2021 but that is only palatable to conservative lawmakers because it would provide a bridge to new marketplaces with less federal regulation.

Talk of spending billions of dollars on the insurance marketplaces to keep the broad structures of ObamaCare in place is a non-starter with Meadows and allied House Republicans.

“To suggest that we’re going to bail out insurance companies when we’re not repealing or replacing ObamaCare — that’s what it would be,” he said.

If the Senate healthcare bill grinds to a stalemate, Meadows said he and other House conservatives would be willing to consider market stabilization measures attached to legislation that replaces as much of ObamaCare as possible under Senate rules.

“If we only have a repeal without a replace can I see a market stabilization measure being put forward in the Senate and the House, yes,” he added.

But to stabilize markets to keep ObamaCare on the books is unacceptable to House conservatives, he explained.

Meadows said House conservatives could also be amenable to a straight ObamaCare repeal bill that has a longer transition of three years instead of the two-year implementation schedule in the 2015 repeal measure that the Senate and House passed but former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE vetoed.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (R-Tenn.), a close ally of McConnell’s, and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' MORE (R-Tenn.) have introduced legislation to “rescue” people in failing insurance markets if the GOP healthcare bill collapses.

Their proposal would allow people who receive subsidies under the current law to buy health insurance outside of ObamaCare’s exchanges as long as those plans are approved by states for sale in the individual markets.

Other Republicans have discussed passing legislation to formally authorize cost-sharing reduction payments, which the administration has now been making under executive authority.

The payments started under Obama and Republicans criticized them as unconstitutional.