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. 

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“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 PaulWatchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 Massie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Overnight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure 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 RyanTrump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (R-Wis.).

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FreedomWorks held a rally against the House bill last week, featuring appearances from conservative lawmakers including Paul, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFiorina: Biden picking Harris for VP 'a smart choice' Russian news agency pushed video of Portland protestors burning a Bible: report After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans 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 SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll 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.  

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“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.