What This Centrist GOP Lawmaker Gets Wrong About the Freedom Caucus

 

After a week of fallout from the failure to pass the GOP health care bill, disgruntled Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois took to the pages of the New York Times Friday to vent his frustrations.

His target? The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members that has borne the brunt of media shaming and ire from its colleagues for its opposition to the American Health Care Act. (It should be noted that Kinzinger is a member of the Tuesday Group, a collection of moderate Republicans, many of whom also failed to support the AHCA—a point neither Kinzinger or the New York Times seem keen on remembering.)

What, you may wonder, was the basis for the objections of the Freedom Caucus to the AHCA? What kind of impossible demands was it making on the rest of the GOP?

If you ask the members of the Freedom Caucus, they’ll tell you. They were simply trying to keep their promise to voters to repeal Obamcare. And the AHCA, contrary to Kinzinger’s claims, did not repeal Obamacare.

It’s a sad day when trying to keep a promise to the people who elected you has become the most vilified act in Washington.

Aside from improperly characterizing the AHCA as repeal, the rest of Kinzinger’s claims are simply baseless and petty—not to mention thoroughly unhelpful to a party that must work together to repeal Obamacare, or otherwise risk its hard-won majority.

Specifically, Kinzinger takes issue with the negotiating tactics of the Freedom Caucus, comparing it to Lucy in the cartoon “Peanuts”—always holding the football out to be kicked, and at the last minute, yanking it back.

Unfortunately, the facts don’t bear that out.

The Freedom Caucus was clear from the beginning—it would only support a bill that fully repealed Obamacare. The AHCA never did that, and despite the changes made by leadership (which were done only after the urging of President Donald Trump), it still did not accomplish full repeal.

Without repeal of Obamacare’s crushing regulations, the fundamental architecture of the law remained in place. Consider that these regulations are responsible for 68 percent of the average cost increases of health insurance across the nation—and up to 92 percent in cost increases for younger Americans.

You cannot call a bill “full repeal” if it doesn’t address these mammoth cost drivers. And, like it or not, full repeal is what Republicans promised their voters. (While Kinzinger and others may say that the regulations “couldn’t be repealed” using the reconciliation process, that, too, is simply untrue. James Wallner of The Heritage Foundation has an entire paper explaining why.)

These problems were obvious to more than just the Freedom Caucus. Conservatives across the spectrum widely panned the bill, and credited the Freedom Caucus for trying to get more. Avik Roy, a commentator at Forbes, even called the group’s requests “surprisingly pragmatic.

It seems the wider audience understood what Kinzinger does not—Obamacare is a policy failure. The House Republicans’ approach of repairing and replacing it didn’t do nearly enough. The law has to go. Only then can true reform of the health care marketplace take shape.

The tackiest element of Kinzinger’s argument, however, is simply its breathtaking lack of self-awareness. Kinzinger and his Tuesday Group members voted more than 50 times to fully repeal Obamacare—when they knew it wouldn’t pass.

But when the Freedom Caucus pushed for the opportunity for repeal to become real—when push came to the literal shove—these guys willingly just went limp and fell off the cliff.

That’s not something Kinzinger should be proud of, because it’s not something his voters elected him to do.

Fortunately, there are members in the House that do understand this. Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and the members of the Freedom Caucus should be applauded for their willingness to go to the mat to defend the promises they made. If he stops naming and shaming long enough, maybe Kinzinger could learn a thing or two.

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