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By John Griffing
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said he’s more concerned with fighting to get an Obamacare repeal bill he believes will bring down premiums than retaining his House seat.
Meadows, who has repeatedly blasted a number of provisions in the leadership-backed legislation, was singled out by President Donald Trump during the House GOP’s conference meeting Tuesday morning. According to a source inside the meeting, the president cautioned members they could have a hard time retaining their seats if they opt to vote against the measure.
“I ask for your support. You can blame me if you want. Mark did you hear that? You can blame me. Oh Mark, I’m gonna come after you.” Trump reportedly said half in jest, asking the North Carolina representative to stand. “I hope Mark will be with us in the end.”
Meadows said his constituents are his first priority, and despite Trump’s pleas, he can’t support legislation he doesn’t doesn’t believe best serves his district.
“I serve at the will of 750,000 people in western North Carolina, and my primary job more than anything else is to serve them,” Meadows told reporters. “I believe that I’m representing them in opposing this bill because it won’t lower premiums, and until it does, I’m going to be a no even if it sends me home.”
Meadows, who was an early supporter of Trump during the campaign, said “only the president” can confirm whether he was joking, but assured they work well together.
“You know the president and I have a good relationship — I’m not going to take anything that he says any more meaningful than him truly acknowledging our sincere and deep friendship, and yet at the same time this is not a personality decision it’s a policy decision,” he said.
The North Carolina Republican said he is concerned how failing to repeal Obamacare could reflect on the administration.
“Am I worried about that? The answer is yes,” he said. “Do I believe that we can find a way to get to yes if the president win, give moderates a win, give the Freedom Caucus and RSC a win? I believe we can if everyone will negotiate.“
The HFC is pushing for language to be added to the legislation, which would eliminate essential health benefits and a number of the mandates — concerns they share with moderate critics of the bill.
“We have wanted to be at yes probably more than the Tuesday Group for the last three weeks,” he said. “We have articulated very clearly a number of things that we wanted, we backed away from most of those — it really comes down to if anyone can credibly show me how this is going to lower health care premiums in a significant way then I’m willing to change my position.”
Meadows said he believes that, if leadership is willing to confirm changes will be made, they could get enough “yeses” for Thursday’s vote.
“We still have 48 hours,” he told reporters.