UNDEAD

The Freedom Caucus Is Taking Over Trumpcare

Last time the Freedom Caucus killed the bill. This time they’re in charge. In their crosshairs are moderate Republicans and everybody with pre-existing conditions.

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

And just like that, Zombie Trumpcare had a pulse again.

But this time, moderate members of the House Republican Conference were the target of its cold, dead stare.

And to make matters worse, it was one of their own who put them in the crosshairs.

On Wednesday afternoon, the hardline-conservative Freedom Caucus officially announced its support for a revised version of the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare-gutting legislation that originally failed in the House late last month after an aggressive, threat-filled push by the White House.

The breakthrough came courtesy of negotiations between Rep. Tom MacArthur, a co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, and Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus. They deal pushes the bill even further rightward, threatening to nuke protections for sick people with pre-existing conditions.

On it’s face, it looked like the compromise Republicans had hoped for, except MacArthur was not acting as a representative of the Tuesday Group, which comprises 50 members of more moderate House Republicans. Instead, he single handedly put them in a tough spot while completely exonerating members of the Freedom Caucus, who weeks earlier were publicly blamed and hate-tweeted by Trump after initial Trumpcare efforts imploded.

“Everything I did, I did as an individual members of Congress,” MacArthur told reporters on Thursday. “I look at this not through different caucuses,we have a job to do as Congress ideally we should be doing things… I’m simply looking at which Republicans can we get to support a compromise that is helpful for moving along healthcare reform, which is desperately needed.”

“I would never want to put anyone in a difficult spot that’s never my intent,” he added, “but legislation can be a messy process as we are seeing.”

Asked by a reporter about the feedback he received from members at the group’s weekly meeting on Wednesday, MacArthur smiled.

“That’s family business and I’ve talked to my own colleagues about that,” he said.

It’s a no-win situation for dozens of Tuesday Group members—all for a deal that could very likely still doom Affordable Care Act repeal efforts in the House or Senate.

It’s a routine that MacArthur’s fellow Tuesday Group co-chairman Rep. Charlie Dent has been through many times.

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“We’ve been through this before,” he said. “The business model down here is to load the bill up, make it as conservative as possible, send it to the Senate and you have the Senate, clean it up, send it back, and the very people that are placated on the first launch, won’t be there on the final one. And that dog isn’t hunting anymore.”

Dent wasn’t alone in his frustration.

One House Republican aide told The Daily Beast on Thursday afternoon that MacArthur’s comrades were “furious” at him for “screwing” them over in the current situation. Another senior GOP aide succinctly characterized Tuesday Group members as “pissed.”

Last month, MacArthur’s own colleagues were urging the more moderate members to cut off all diplomatic relations with the Freedom Caucus, who some congressmen were ready to designate a hostile force.

“I am not speaking for the White House, I’m not speaking for the Speaker, but I will speak for the Tuesday Group,” Rep. Chris Collins, a Tuesday Group member and a steadfast Trump ally on the Hill, told reporters in late March. “We will never meet with the Freedom Caucus, because it’s not appropriate for a group of ad hoc members.”

“It was just reiterated [in our meeting] that next time one of those calls comes in [from the Freedom Caucus], just hang up,” Collins continued.

Still, the White House has been pushing for a vote this Friday, in seemingly desperate hopes of racking another spin-able win for Trump before he hits his 100th day in office this weekend. But it was not meant to be. Last Thursday night, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters the vote would not be held Friday or Saturday.

“We’ve been educating people on health care,” he said, according to Roll Call. “It’s not tomorrow. I never said it was going to be tomorrow. ... We are not voting on health care tomorrow.

Still, the Republican conference’s frustrations aren’t evaporating any time soon. On Thursday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan held one of his regular press conferences on Capitol Hill, where he was asked about Congressman MacArthur’s actions frustrated and angering his Republican, more centrist-tilting colleagues.

The speaker deflected, simply responding: “I don’t know if that’s the case.”