clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This odd statement from a House conservative explains Trumpcare’s problem

Let’s play the blame game.

Dave Brat and Donald Trump
Congressman Dave Brat with President Trump.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

The blame game over the American Health Care Act’s demise is escalating, threatening any prospect for a last-minute deal to resurrect the Republican Obamacare replacement bill.

The archconservative House Freedom Caucus has taken the brunt of the public shaming, including from President Donald Trump himself. But nobody wants to be culpable for such an embarrassing failure in the first few months of renewed GOP control of the federal government.

That’s led to some slightly bewildering statements, like this one from Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, a Freedom Caucus stalwart. From the Washington Times:

Rep. Dave Brat on Tuesday said it’s incorrect to blame conservative House members for Republicans’ failure to pass health care legislation last month, saying in a radio interview they got to “yes” on several different provisions.

“We’ve been to a ‘yes’ on several alternatives,” Mr. Brat, Virginia Republican, said on “The John Fredericks Show.”

According to the available statements by lawmakers, on the only bill that was ever actually written and released to the public, 15 members of the right wing of the House were firmly “no” on the American Health Care Act, by the New York Times’s count. (And a few more were “concerned.”)

Pair them with the moderate opposition, and that’s why the bill failed.

But Brat and his colleagues are desperate to shake off the stench of stopping the GOP’s seven-year quest to repeal and replace Obamacare. Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows is talking a lot these days about a new deal that’s just around the bend.

Brat is referring to a compromise that was never actually official. Two weeks ago, rumors abounded that a deal between the Freedom Caucus and the moderates was imminent. The two Republican factions were allegedly close to an agreement, supported by the White House, to allow states to opt out of Obamacare’s core insurance provisions, which helped protect people with preexisting medical conditions. The Freedom Caucus has been pushing for the GOP bill to roll back more of Obamacare than it originally did.

But that deal never materialized, and lawmakers went home for Easter. Outside conservative groups railed against the moderates, part of a coalition known as the Tuesday Group, for blocking a compromise. But the details of that agreement were never made public, and there was no public commitment from the Freedom Caucus to vote “yes” on any actual bill.

And any such bill would have faced an uphill battle: The parts of Obamacare that protect people with preexisting conditions are some of its most popular provisions.

Nonetheless, this is the story that Brat and others are sticking to. They want fingers pointed firmly in the other direction (emphasis mine):

“We got to a yes. We were going to vote yes for the health care bill. And then someone said no,” he said.

Mr. Brat then said Vice President Mike Pence offered another compromise that allowed states some flexibility on regulations.

“And we said yes to that deal, in public, in the newspapers,” he said. “And still it’s reported like the House Freedom Caucus is holding this thing back. So someone said no to that.”

“And I said, OK, dear press, go win a Pulitzer,” Mr. Brat said. “See if you can find out where the no is. [Because] the Freedom Caucus has been yes, yes, yes.”

If you’re searching for signs that Trumpcare can be saved, this isn’t what you were looking for.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.