House Republicans are closer to passing a health bill than they've ever been — but it's still not certain they can rack up enough votes for a win. And this time, the fate of the bill comes down to the House moderates, a group of 50-plus members, many of whom have grown increasingly skeptical as the American Health Care Act moves further to the right.
Until now, the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare has been a nonstarter for the party's most conservative faction, the House Freedom Caucus, which successfully blocked a vote on AHCA in the first round of negotiations in late March.
But this time, the Freedom Caucus has officially backed the bill as a group for the first time. That means at least 80 percent of the roughly 40-person caucus will vote yes, should the latest amendment be included.
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The amendment, negotiated by Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows and Rep. Tom MacArthur, a member of the House Republican's moderate Tuesday Group, would allow states to waive key Obamacare regulations that stopped insurance agencies from charging people with
Freedom Caucus member Rep. Dave Brat called the deal the "sweet spot" Republicans have been trying so desperately to find.
But while Meadows appears to have successfully gotten conservatives in line, it's become increasingly clear that MacArthur does not speak for the moderates. Instead, Rep. Charlie Dent, who chairs the Tuesday Group, has come out against the
"My sense is that the members of our group who were opposed to the bill before remain opposed. Nothing's changed," Dent told reporters. In other words, with Freedom Caucus members on board, the vote definitely got a lot closer — but now it's in the hands of the moderates, who will have to decide whether voting with their party will be too politically dangerous in their constituencies.