(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) While the conservative House Freedom Caucus was generally characterized as “on board” with the Obamacare overhaul passed on Thursday, one of its members — Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona — could not bring himself to vote for it.
A few other conservative House members, who don’t officially meet with the caucus, opposed it as well. But the final bill was opposed more by moderate Republicans than by conservatives, as it was perceived that the Freedom Caucus drove the tinkering process more, which kept more of their members on board than those involved with the centrist Tuesday Group.
But Biggs couldn’t go along, he said, because of promises he made to his voters.
“Unfortunately, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) leaves the basic framework of Obamacare in place and continues to commit Republicans to an ill-considered, ill-defined, and an almost certainly ill-fated three-stage plan to completely repeal Obamacare at an unspecified later date,” the Congressman said in a statement released Thursday. “Even worse, I have seen no compelling evidence that the AHCA will offer substantive relief to Arizona families who have been crushed by devastatingly high health insurance premiums. For these reasons, and because I promised my constituents a full repeal, I voted ‘no’ on this legislation.”
Thoughout negotiations between factions among House Republicans, conservatives sought more repeals of Obamacare’s complexities and regulations, rather than tinkering with its mandates and taxes. What the majority ended up with is now being characterized as a “good first step,” with plans for further revisions down the road.
That wasn’t good enough for Biggs.
“The AHCA does not do anything to eliminate the costly [Affordable Care Act] subsidies already in place, and it continues the dangerous precedent established by the ACA of granting the federal government the power to regulate our nation’s healthcare system,” said Biggs, who is serving his first term in Congress. “I did not come to Washington to give unelected bureaucrats the authority to dictate health insurance options to me, my family, or the residents of [my district]. This is not a fight I am prepared to surrender.”
During debate Biggs attempted to introduce two amendments to the AHCA. One was to allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, which many Republicans — including President Trump — advocated for during the 2016 campaign. The other would have allowed states to opt out of provisions of Obamacare or the AHCA without need for waiver approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Both amendments were denied.
Other conservative members of the House, who don’t consider themselves part of the Freedom Caucus, also voted against AHCA.
“For reasons I cannot understand, instead of moving a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with reforms that will fix our broken health care system, the Washington Republican leadership jammed a bill through the House that does neither,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC.
The 12-term Congressman criticized House leaders for utilizing methods that they criticized Democrats for when they held majority power.
“The rushed, behind-closed-doors process they’ve used is shameful,” Jones said. “Over the past several weeks, they cut deal after deal to secure members’ support, and then pushed the bill to the floor without a [Congressional Budget Office] score. As a result, no one has any idea how much those deals will cost the American taxpayers, or how they might affect the cost, quality and availability of health insurance coverage for American families.
“Seven years ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said of the Obamacare bill: ‘You have to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it.’ Sadly, the Washington Republican leadership is repeating the same mistakes.”
Conservative Republican Thomas Massie from Kentucky also slammed the process by which AHCA was formulated and passed.
“The former Democrat Speaker of the House was rightfully derided for imploring Members to vote for a healthcare bill to ‘find out what was in it.’ Yet today, we voted on a healthcare bill for which the text was available only a few hours before the vote.”
Massie said AHCA fell far short of what Republican candidates and incumbents promised voters during the 2016 campaign.
“As recently as a year ago,” he said, “Republicans argued that mandates were unconstitutional, bailouts were immoral, and subsidies would bankrupt our country. Today, however, the House voted for a healthcare bill that makes these objectionable measures permanent….
“By repealing a small number of Obamacare mandates, while leaving others in place, this bill runs the risk of destroying what remains of the individual health insurance market.”
Massie said the necessary replacement to Obamacare is free market incentives and minimized government regulation.
“This bill should have included measures that allow Americans to take charge of their own healthcare and get the government out of the way,” he said. “These measures include allowing the deduction of health insurance costs from income taxes, giving everyone the ability to purchase insurance across state lines, and allowing individuals to band together through any organization to purchase insurance….
“If this bill becomes law, it could result in worse outcomes, fewer options, and higher prices for Kentuckians who seek health care,” he added. “In summary, I voted against this bill not because it’s imperfect, but because it’s not good.”