Tuesday Group chair MacArthur resigns amid health deal fallout

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) resigned as co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group amid a revolt among members over his role in crafting a compromise with conservatives to save the GOP’s healthcare bill.

His resignation on Tuesday came weeks after The Hill reported some GOP colleagues were trying to oust him for cutting a deal on the ObamaCare replacement bill with the far-right Freedom Caucus.

Some of MacArthur’s colleagues had been quietly pressuring him behind the scenes to step down, while others said they were so upset with him that they had stopped speaking with him entirely.

ADVERTISEMENT

MacArthur announced his resignation in defiant remarks before the centrist group of Republicans, fittingly, on Tuesday.

"For two years, I listened in meetings as some in the Tuesday Group complained about the group’s lack of relevance and inability to get things done. I ran for co-chairman of Tuesday Group because I felt I could help change that – both in perception and reality – and move the ball forward on a number of key issues," MacArthur told Tuesday Group members during their weekly meeting.

He pointedly noted that "more than half" of the 20 Republicans who voted against the healthcare bill were from the Tuesday Group, even though most had voted many times over the years to repeal ObamaCare when they knew it wasn’t going anywhere.

"While some embraced my efforts as Co-Chairman, others have bristled. Clearly, our group is divided. Many in the Tuesday Group are eager to live up to our ideal of being problem-solvers, while others seem unwilling to compromise. The recent healthcare debate was illustrative," MacArthur said.

MacArthur later clarified to reporters that he had quit on his “own volition” and would continue to be a member of the Tuesday Group despite no longer serving as a leader. He had only been co-chairman of the group since January, after first joining it in 2015.

“You cannot lead people where they don’t want to go,” MacArthur said just off the House floor. 

“I realized the things they were unhappy about are who I am. You know, I’m going to negotiate with the Freedom Caucus. I’m going to negotiate with Democrats. I’m going to work with everyone here to try to find solutions," he added.

Tuesday Group members were skeptical of anyone trying to craft a deal with conservatives in a way that might appear to be on their behalf. Some centrists who voted “no” said they now could face primary challenges in 2018; those who voted “yes” have become bigger targets for Democrats. 

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), a Tuesday Group member who voted no on the health bill, suggested the New Jersey congressman had been using the Tuesday Group platform for his own self-interest. 

“I don’t believe anyone in the Tuesday Group is an obstructionist or doesn’t want to make things work. His views are in direct conflict of the majority of Tuesday group members,” Joyce told The Hill. 

“The idea that you would come to use the Tuesday Group for your own self promotion certainly doesn’t correspond with what I believe the Tuesday Group is all about. That’s certainly what it appears like to me.”

But most Tuesday Group members declined to say anything bad about MacArthur. Fellow New Jersey Republican, Rep. Leonard Lance, repeated the same line as reporters asked multiple questions about MacArthur: "Tom is a friend and a valued member of the Tuesday Group.”

MacArthur had already planned to vote for the original GOP bill to partially repeal and replace ObamaCare before GOP leaders canceled a vote in March. 

A proposal originally floated by Vice President Pence to allow states waivers from ObamaCare provisions led MacArthur, a former insurance executive, to begin talks with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

MacArthur insisted throughout the discussions with Meadows that he wasn’t trying to negotiate on behalf of the Tuesday Group.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who also serves as Tuesday Group co-chair along with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), said fellow members repeatedly warned him earlier this year they didn’t want Dent or anyone else trying to negotiate for them.

The proposal MacArthur authored with Meadows ultimately helped get more conservatives and centrists on board for the narrow 217-213 passage earlier this month.

The roughly 40-member Freedom Caucus endorsed the proposal within days after its unveiling. The Tuesday Group, meanwhile, remained divided.
 
The compromise amendment would allow states to apply for waivers from key ObamaCare provisions that outline services all insurance plans must cover and require insurers to charge people in a given region the same for premiums regardless of whether they have preexisting conditions. 

Freedom Caucus members who voted in favor of the final health bill said they were disappointed that MacArthur felt the need to resign.

“It’s unfortunate to say the least,” Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.) told The Hill. “Tom MacArthur is a good man and the Tuesday Group makes a mistake doing anything to ostracize him as a noble human being, but him as someone who has tried to bring two groups together for the ultimate good of the country.”