How the greedy, bumbling fools in the House Freedom Caucus saved socialized medicine in America

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday March 27th, 2017

Thanks a lot.

You like it when someone says they "stand for conservative principles." It sounds good. It sounds like what you want.

But here's a thought: There's a gigantic difference between standing for something and actually achieving it. Anyone on Facebook can say they "stand with Planned Parenthood" or that they "stand with the unborn." What does it mean? Nothing. You didn't do anything. You just made a worthless declaration. Sure, you told us your opinion. Wonderful. Doesn't accomplish a damn thing.

Your stand achieves nothing.

But oh, how conservatives love their heroes who take stands! They're so principled! They stand! They declare that they will accept nothing less than a complete and utter reversal of big government! They will not compromise!

And you cheer. It's what you want to hear. It's also what you want to see happen.

Well. You heard it! Enjoy the music to your ears because your oh-so-principled hero isn't going to make it happen. He doesn't know how to do that. All he knows how to do is talk.

This comes from the Worst Web Site In The World, so proceed advisedly, but it does seem to track with what I've observed about the demise of the ObamaCare replacement. I'd feel better about it if they named their sources, but with that caution offered, I'm going to excerpt from their report on how the House Freedom Caucus managed to save socialized medicine by deciding it was more important to preen ideologically than to accomplish anything whatsoever.

While other House conservatives understood the imperfect AHCA was a necessary first step toward bringing about a true market health care system - that it didn't do everything but that it did much good, and that the embedded repeal of ObamaCare was essential for more reasons than I can explain here - the House Freedom Caucus made a pact amongst themselves not to budge. No matter what they got, they would demand more and more. And despite their vaccuous claims of individual independence, they followed orders from caucus chairman Mark Meadows not to back the bill unless he said it was OK.

Here's how these utter fools saved ObamaCare:

New York lawmakers got the “Buffalo bribe,” a provision to stick the state instead of counties with rising health care costs. Leaders bought goodwill from North Carolina and Kansas lawmakers with a ban on new states expanding Medicaid.

Individual lawmakers secured pet initiatives, persuading them to come on board. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) flipped after Ryan agreed to hold a vote on his bill to require Social Security verification to receive health care tax credits offered by the GOP health plan.

And the White House clinched a deal with the 160-member strong Republican Study Committee by agreeing to its demands on Medicaid and curbing abortions.

But the Freedom Caucus remained elusive. Senior Republicans were heartened by the fact that the group never took an official position against the bill, and three of their more pragmatic-minded members voted for it in committee. That proved to be a false sense of security.

The president launched his charm offensive starting with Meadows, a ripe target after having campaigned with the president in North Carolina. Trump invited the Freedom Caucus chief and his right-hand man Jordan to lunch with him at the White House and called him dozens of times the week before the planned vote. He also wooed individual members of the group in the Oval Office and over late-night phone calls.

“I don’t think [White House officials] understood the depth of our commitment to try to make the repeal of Obamacare, a repeal of Obamacare," Mo Brooks said. | AP Photo

The White House also leaned on GOP leaders to make further concessions to appease the right, including getting rid of Obamacare taxes more quickly.

But as soon as that provision came out, caucus members said it wasn’t enough. They wanted Congress to, in effect, start over: Pass a repeal-only bill, then come back with replacement legislation later on, with their input. That idea, however, would have been dead on arrival in the Senate.

Freedom Caucus insiders said offers of compromise or arguments for support were often panned by the most ardent members of the group, such as Jordan and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). The group acceded to those voices.

“When you’re a minority in an organization, your strength is in sticking together … and at least not making the commitment to someone else before you talk to the rest of the folks who are like-minded,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a caucus member, said of the group’s strategy. “You don’t agree to something … until you come back to the group and say, ‘Hey, this what I heard.’”

The members were also buttressed by outside forces. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) repeatedly showed up to Freedom Caucus meetings to remind members that they could take down the bill if they stuck together. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) met privately with caucus members to explain his issues with the bill — though he stopped short of telling them how to vote, sources said. And Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called at least a dozen conservative House members before the planned vote to urge them to hold firm.

Outside groups also cheered them on. The powerful Heritage Foundation, which has links to the White House, as well as Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers network, which has deep ties among members, frequently encouraged Freedom Caucus members to stand their ground. The deep-pocketed groups offered to start a seven-figure war chest to defend members who voted against the plan.

At times, the Freedom Caucus pact showed cracks. At a bill-signing ceremony at the White House, Trump pulled aside Freedom Caucus member Jim Bridenstine and implored him to vote for the bill. The Oklahoma congressman flipped his position that day. Trump also was able to win over Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), multiple sources said. And Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) offered his vote after a phone call with the president.

That wasn’t enough. GOP leaders, who lost just over a dozen centrist and moderate Republicans, needed at least half the group if not more to pass the bill. They weren’t anywhere near that.

Seeing how the battle was trending, and well aware they were running out of time, White House legislative staffers were still concerned they didn’t have the numbers.

So the White House again offered more. After a meeting with the group at the White House Wednesday, Trump leaned on Ryan to repeal “essential health benefits,” an Obamacare requirement that insurance plans include a minimum level of services. Ryan caved, after arguing just hours earlier that such a provision would tank the bill in the Senate under the chamber’s arcane budget rules.

"We thought that could get us there," one senior administration official said.

Freedom Caucus members weighed the offer, but a few hours later said it would not secure their support. They wanted to repeal “Title One” regulations, which encompass the most popular aspects of Obamacare, such as mandating coverage of people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans.

I am not taking issue substantively with most of what the HFC members wanted. They were good things. But for a whole host of reasons, there was no way you could load this bill up with all of them and get it through the Senate and onto Trump's desk for his signature. The role of the House leadership is to craft the best bill possible that can actually pass. Crafting a bill that can't pass but "stands for principle" is worth 10 cents minus a dime. It doesn't do a damn thing.

These knuckleheads are now very proud of themselves because they stopped "ObamaCare Lite" or whatever else they want to call the replacement bill, and they think this means the House Leadership, Senate moderates and the White House are going to come back and give them everything they want.

Have you seen any indication of that since Friday? It sounds more like all of the above are prepared to leave ObamaCare in place and move on to other things. And while that's completely unacceptable, if I were in their shoes I would wonder how it's possible to come back and do any better when the House Freedom Caucus proved entirely impossible to satisfy no matter what they were offered.

GDP growth for Obama's final year? A measly 1.6 percent

As I wrote earlier today, Democrats are much better at this than Republicans. Democrats understand the value of incremental progress, and they consistently take what they can get however they can get it, then go back and fight for more. Some Republicans understand that too, but the mental defectives in the House Freedom Caucus clearly do not. They insist on getting everything they want, all at once, or they refuse to do anything and just leave the federal government careening toward all-out socialism.

That is where we are today. If the House Freedom Caucus had recognized the opportunity Friday's vote presented, ObamaCare would be repealed and Tom Price could begin the work of altering regulatory rules to make health insurance markets more consumer-friendly and less onerous. There would be more work to come, and much of it would be difficult, but at least we'd be in a position to get started on it.

Now? ObamaCare remains, no one has a plan forward and America is looking at another year of soaring premiums, collapsing exchanges, retreating benefits and departing insurers. Oh, by the way, if you want to look at it in terms of politics instead of substance: Republicans now own all this.

Nice work, losers. Keep taking your hollow stands and enjoying the praise of your fans on social media. You idiots saved ObamaCare, and with it the likelihood of socialized medicine in America. If that's what we get when you "stand for conservative principles," do us all a favor and sit down.

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!