Centrist group in House 'will never' meet with Freedom Caucus

Centrist group in House 'will never' meet with Freedom Caucus
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The centrist Tuesday Group affirmed at a meeting Wednesday that it will not meet with the conservative House Freedom Caucus to negotiate changes to an ObamaCare replacement bill, according to Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). 

“I am not speaking for the White House; I'm not speaking for the Speaker; but I will speak for the Tuesday Group,” Collins, a member of the group, told reporters. “We have never negotiated with the Freedom Caucus. There was never a meeting scheduled with the Freedom Caucus. We will never meet with the Freedom Caucus, because it's not appropriate for a group of ad hoc members.”

“It's not regular order, that's not our role,” Collins added. He said the regular healthcare committees should handle the issue.  

He said the Tuesday Group had a meeting on Wednesday and he can state “unequivocally” that other members of the group agree they should not meet with the Freedom Caucus. 

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“It was just reiterated that next time one of those calls comes in [from the Freedom Caucus], just hang up,” Collins said of the Tuesday Group meeting. 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday afternoon that he is open to setting up a meeting with the Tuesday Group, but so far had only spoken with Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), the group’s co-chairman. 

Collins said he thinks the Freedom Caucus is just trying to shift blame for the repeal bill’s failure last week by talking about such a meeting. 

“I think the Freedom Caucus is simply trying to shift the blame for this bill going down to someone else, and the thought that they could say, ‘Oh, we're willing to meet and negotiate with the Tuesday Group,’ is absurd on its face,” Collins said. 

Alyssa Farah, spokeswoman for the Freedom Caucus, responded to Collins on Twitter, pointing out that plenty of moderates, not just conservatives, opposed the bill last week. 

The tension between the groups is a bad sign for prospects of reviving ObamaCare repeal legislation. 

Collins predicted that the repeal bill would not come back.  

“First step is bring the Tuesday Group as best they can back to yes, but in doing that I think that would harden the 'no' on the Freedom Caucus, which is why I say my opinion is, I don't see a bill coming forward. I think we move on to tax reform,” Collins said.