House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWhite House debates vaccines for air travel McCarthy on Dems' spending bill: 'The amount of money we spent to win World War II' Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE (R-Calif.) appeared to blame the loss of the Republican majority in the House last year on a push by the House Freedom Caucus to roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions, according to The Washington Post.
The Post, citing partial recordings obtained by the newspaper, reported McCarthy told donors at a private gathering that the GOP push to roll back the popular provisions had cost the seats of Republican representatives, including of several Freedom Caucus.
The California Republican added that for 2020 he wanted Republican candidates who could “find a solution at the end of the day,” according to the Post.
In his conversation with donors, McCarthy was discussing the GOP push in 2017 to draft a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.
To help get Freedom Caucus on board, the bill contained a provision that would have given states the right to waive protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Republicans who voted for the bill, which then failed to clear the Senate, were repeatedly attacked by Democrats in the 2018 cycle as being against protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
“That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race,” McCarthy reportedly said, according to the Post.
McCarthy's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Hill.
A spokesman for the Republican leader told the Post that McCarthy “has been clear-eyed on what went wrong last cycle and no one is more committed to doing everything necessary to win back the House and execute an agenda that offers every American limitless potential to get ahead.”
Meanwhile, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAllies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan House panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records MORE (R-N.C.) told the Post McCarthy's reported comments were "very troublesome" and added: “I hoped the us-versus-them mentality of the past was something that indeed was in the past.”
Meadows told The Hill he has not “had any follow-up conversations with Leader McCarthy” since the story broke.
Conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks blasted McCarthy’s reported remarks, arguing the blame for the loss of the House should be placed on leadership and moderates.
“Minority Leader McCarthy thinks that because the House Freedom Caucus took a principled stand to give states the flexibility to waive two of Obamacare’s costly mandates, they deserve the blame for the GOP’s midterm thumping,” the group said in a statement.
“Newsflash: Republicans lost the House because of inept leadership by establishment folks like former Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy," it added.
"Leader McCarthy should concentrate on stopping the socialist proposals coming down the pipe from House Democrats instead further alienating conservatives,” the group also said.