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GOP, Conservative Senators Give President Trump Feud for Thought

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Getting it done isn’t as nearly as important as getting it right. That’s the message conservatives are trying to communicate to House leaders on the biggest order of business in seven years: repealing Obamacare. Like us, they know that this debate is about a whole lot more than the health care system — it’s about the future of conservative governance. After more than 60 votes to nix the worst mistake of the Obama years, the dress rehearsals are over. In all likelihood, leaders will get one crack at this law — and they can’t afford to miss.

But after poring over the bill offered by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), that fear is very much alive in the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee, and among conservative senators. Leaders have been trying to put out fires from all sides of the GOP spectrum, as members push back on text that they worry is too close to the law they’re trying to replace. “What we have to do is have the intestinal fortitude to do what’s right by the American people,” Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told me yesterday on “Washington Watch,” “[and] truly do what’s right for them — even if it means we get sent home. If we have that same commitment to get it right and make sure that we drive down health care costs and insurance premiums. Ultimately… that’s how your listeners are going to judge if we were successful — a year from now, two years from now, three years than now. If their premiums continue to go up, they will say this is nothing more than what we had before; it didn’t change a thing.”

While the White House is open to suggestions, House leaders seem to be taking more of a take-it-or-leave-it approach to the legislation. “This [bill] is the chance, and the best and only chance we’re going to get,” Speaker Ryan told reporters. If that’s the case, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) says, then don’t rush it. “To my friends in the House: pause, start over,” he tweeted. “Get it right, don’t get it fast.” While the bill moved on two tracks through marathon mark-ups lasting more than 44 hours in the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, leaders like Meadows appreciate that President Trump is taking time to listen to their concerns.

“Let me tell you, it was so refreshing to have a conversation with a president of the United States who’s a business guy and who wants to do the right thing by the American people, and who understands that we’ve got to lower costs,” Mark told me. “In the end, we’re hopeful that we’ll go a step further than we are right now to really repeal [Obamacare] and then put a replacement plan in there that may not be the ideal thing that we want but certainly isn’t a new entitlement that’s going to drive costs up.”

For his part, Trump is trying to be upbeat despite the inner-party tension. “Despite what you hear in the press, health care is coming along great,” he said. “We are talking to many groups, and it will end in a beautiful picture.” Fortunately, pro-lifers are included in those groups! Yesterday, the White House invited FRC and a handful of other organizations to the table to talk through some possible abortion issues in the legislation with Vice President Mike Pence. Although the bill does pull the plug on the majority of Planned Parenthood’s funding, there are definite landmines with regard to the abortion subsidies and using refundable tax credits and health savings accounts.

In multiple conversations with the administration, our team reiterated the importance of specific pro-life protections — which, unfortunately, conservatives could lose under the strict Senate budget rules. There’s been some speculation that the administration might try to fix any abortion problems with an executive order. I can say without hesitation that such an offer is a non-starter. For those that may need a refresher on the history of how Obamacare became law, it was an executive order promised to pro-life Democratic like Bart Stupak. Pro-life Democrats fell for that stunt seven years ago when the whole bill hung in the balance, and it resulted in the greatest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion since 1973. As America found out — too late — Obama’s executive order “banning” abortion funds in health care wasn’t worth the White House letterhead it was printed on. While I can’t speak for everyone, I feel pretty confident that pro-life leaders inside and outside of Congress won’t fall for that again.

As a movement, we’re thrilled with the Trump administration’s commitment to the unborn. But these problems have to be addressed up front before any measure becomes law, or we will be unequivocally opposed. A regulatory fix or executive order would be a major step back from the pro-life riders and victories already won in Congress. As a matter of principle, pro-lifers cannot accept a law that funds abortion with the promise to deal with it later. Regardless of the GOP’s good intentions, FRC will fight any bill that funds abortion — something that should come as no surprise to the administration or Congress. And for those who say such an approach jeopardizes the repeal of Obamacare, there’s a better and proven way. FRC worked with House leadership in 2015 to craft a reconciliation bill that gutted Obamacare and defunded 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. That measure passed the House and Senate. The same bill could be advanced today, followed by a separate bill with the replace portion, and all the concerns about abortion funding and government expansion would be clearly addressed.

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