Dealing under pressure

Dealing under pressure
© Courtesy photo

Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, says he’s “never been under so much pressure” in his life. 

FreedomWorks is one of several prominent conservative groups strongly opposed to the House GOP’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, which could get a floor vote on Thursday. House leaders are working hard to overcome opposition from conservatives on the measure, which represents a major campaign pledge for many Republicans.

Brandon says his group is coming under intense pressure to get behind the Republican legislation, which he says doesn’t go nearly far enough in rolling back the Affordable Care Act. 

“I have never been under so much pressure as I am right now,” Brandon said in an interview. “Never. People are calling our donors. They’re reaching out to some board members. I mean, this is brutal.”

But Brandon said true conservatives are working just as hard to stand up against the bill, specifically naming Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCheney unveils Turkey sanctions legislation CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets Republican lawmaker proposes transferring drone authority to local governments A decade of policymaking failures is to blame for new Syria crisis MORE (R-Utah).   

“I also know, when I look at our heroes in the House Freedom Caucus, and I look at Rand Paul and I look at Mike Lee, we exist to support guys like that,” he said. 

Like those Republicans, FreedomWorks is pushing for Congress to vote on the sweeping repeal measure that it passed in 2015, then deal with replacement later. They say the current bill, known as the American Health Care Act, is too weak and has problematic additions, such as a refundable tax credit some call a new entitlement. 

“What I would rather do is just gut it and then you could spend a year or two getting the bill right,” Brandon said. “You don’t even need that much time. I think in about six months you could have a perfectly fine replacement bill.”

FreedomWorks has taken an aggressive approach to fighting for its views on ObamaCare. The group has labeled some Republican members “turncoats” or “Republicans in name only” — RINOs — for supporting the approach of House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.).

FreedomWorks held a rally against the House bill last week, featuring appearances from conservative lawmakers including Paul, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE (R-Texas) and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). 

Activists then went to door-to-door inside the congressional office buildings. 

Then FreedomWorks published photos of activists meeting with different GOP lawmakers. 

“This is the kind of hand-to-hand combat that is necessary when our activists have leverage: a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and a Republican president,” Brandon said in a statement then. 

The group’s website features a button to send an email to lawmakers, under the message: “Republicans have promised to repeal ObamaCare for years. But instead of repealing and replacing ObamaCare with a bold conservative plan, these establishment RINOs have opted for RyanCare. This is unacceptable.” 

A major focus of FreedomWorks and lawmakers in the conservative House Freedom Caucus has been repealing ObamaCare’s insurance regulations, such as the “essential health benefits” that mandate which services an insurance plan must cover. The conservatives argue those regulations drive up costs and that failing to repeal them means the current GOP bill will not do enough to lower premiums. 

The House committees that wrote the bill, however, argue that Senate rules would not allow those provisions to be repealed in the fast-track process being used. 

Brandon pushed back on the Republican argument that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price can take actions on his own to reduce regulatory burdens. 

“What happens after the Trump presidency?” Brandon said. “I don’t want to leave in place the regulatory framework.”

Brandon warned that a possible “Secretary Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Democrats have reason to worry after the last presidential debate Krystal Ball on Sanders debate performance: 'He absolutely hit it out of the park' MORE” could swing regulations back the other way. 

“We have to fight hard because the next stop is going to be Bernie SandersCare if we don’t get this right,” he said. 

Brandon said his organization is considering pushing for amendments to the bill on areas such as scaling back the refundability of the tax credit and freezing ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid immediately, instead of in 2020. 

Brandon said his organization views its role as providing support to conservative lawmakers such as Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who share many of the same concerns and are also opposing the bill. 

“We want to prove to Dave Brat that he’s got support — he’s got grassroots support,” he said. 

As for Republicans who are now hesitating after running on repeal of ObamaCare, Brandon said, “We need those people to know that we took them seriously.”

The 38-year-old has devoted much of his professional life to FreedomWorks, where he started in an entry-level role on the press team in his mid-20s. 

“I didn’t expect to be here this long, but here I am; now I’m the president,” Brandon said. 

The group’s focus on economics initially attracted him, since he says entitlement reform is his top priority.  

“They were focusing on all these economic issues, and that’s what I wanted to battle on,” he said. 

Outside of those battles, Brandon spends time with his fiancée and is a “manic” fan of his hometown Cleveland sports teams. 

“I do FreedomWorks, I hang out with my future wife, and I follow in a desperate attempt to watch my Browns get better,” he said.