The leading social conservative advocacy group Family Research Council has joined conservative lawmakers in voicing opposition to certain elements of the Obamacare replacement bill being advanced by House leadership, which some are calling "Obamacare Lite."
FRC president Tony Perkins, a leading social conservative activist and thought leader, and FRC staffers took to Perkins' blog, "Washington Update," on Wednesday to clarify the organization's stance on the newly proposed American Health Care Act and the the intra-GOP conflict over the bill.
While Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., stands behind the bill, which aims to repeal and replace Obamacare and its subsidies with a new system of tax credits, conservative lawmakers, such as Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and some conservative House members, have issued their opposition to the proposed program of tax credits.
"In some members' opinion, the tax credits are too similar to the subsidies in the law they're trying to replace. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been outspoken in his objections, calling the plan everything from Obamacare Lite to Obamacare 2.0. Others, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), are taking a more proactive posture and suggesting alternatives of their own," the blog post states. "The objections are causing plenty of heartburn on the Hill, where Ryan and [Senate] Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) need every ounce of GOP support to get a bill across the finish line. Unless Democrats suddenly decide to listen to voters and work to scrap the law, leaders can't afford to lose more than two senators and 22 congressmen on the plan."
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump told House leadership that he is "proud" to support the bill and reportedly warned House Republicans that there would be a "bloodbath" in the 2018 midterm elections should the House not pass the the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Additionally, Trump reportedly promised House Republicans that he would use his influence to make sure that both conservatives and moderates fall in line and pass the bill.
However, the FRC post states that there are aspects of the bill that are "troubling" and asserts the bill's tax credit program is an indication that the the "GOP seems to be surrendering to the view that healthcare is a government entitlement."
"Like a lot of conservatives, FRC agrees with portions of the AHCA. It eliminates two of the problems with the healthcare Hydra: the individual mandate and taxpayers' forced partnership with the abortion industry," the post reads. "What's troubling is that the GOP seems to be surrendering to the view that health care is a government entitlement. Somewhere along the way, they succumbed to the idea that the government has to provide health care. As Holman Jenkins writes for the [Wall Street] Journal, 'Even under a GOP plan, health care will remain a heavily subsidized industry in relation to everything else Americans might rationally prefer to spend their money on.'"
According to FRC, the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare is to do it in separate bills, not an all-in-one measure.
"With one-fifth of the economy riding on U.S. health care, Republicans can't afford to get it wrong," the update states. "Like Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and others, we believe the best approach is for Congress to repeal Obamacare as they did in 2015 and then address the replace holistically with a separate, well-crafted bill not limited by the parameters of reconciliation."
FRC seems encouraged that the White House "seems to understand the severity of the divide" and is "open to suggestions for improvement."
On Tuesday night, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, met with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to hear their concerns.
"When the administration has spoken to our members in private meetings, the discussions have been more about finding ways to move forward together and not about take it or leave it," Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told reporters.
Although House Republicans might be split, there are elements of the bill that they can all, for the most part, agree on.
"One thing they do all agree on (with the exception of liberal Republicans Susan Collins [of] Maine, and Lisa Murkowski [of] Alaska) is pulling the plug on Planned Parenthood," the FRC update states. "In a press conference today, Speaker Ryan even used that fact as leverage to get more conservatives on board."
The update also notes that FRC is working with congress to make sure the bills refundable credits or healthcare savings accounts can't be used to pay for abortion services.
"The American Health Care Act contains important provisions which prevent these health care credits and state block grants from paying for plans that cover abortion on demand. However, there is still a pro-life concern in the bill because it could allow funds from the refundable credits to pay for abortions in health savings accounts. We discussed with congressional leaders who agree with the importance of making sure this bill has rock solid pro-life protections," FRC said.
The repeal bill would strip the nation's largest abortion provider of its over $500 million in annual federal funding. That funding would be redirected to federally qualified community health centers.