Talks Continue On Health Care, But No Deal Yet

CNN/ Newswire | 4/12/2017, 3 p.m.
After Republican House leaders failed to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the last ...
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(CNN) -- After Republican House leaders failed to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the last congressional session, the White House is claiming it is taking a more active role in moving the negotiations along -- encouraging private talks between the conservative House Freedom Caucus and moderate Tuesday Group.

But there is still no proof that Republicans are any closer to repealing Obamacare than they were six weeks ago. The effort appears to be little more than talks.

"Nothing major" is happening on the health care front aside from conversations, a GOP source very close to the negotiations told CNN.

According to a senior administration official, the White House believes there has been some progress on health care in recent days. But rather than take another stab at the very public lobbying and arm-twisting effort that the White House embraced twice and failed, this time the administration is keeping their private prodding out of the spotlight.

The White House official said they're largely leaving it up to the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group to try to work out a plan that both sides can agree on with the White House quietly weighing in throughout the process.

During his news conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration was "getting closer and closer every day."

"More votes are moving in our direction," Spicer said. "And these ideas, I think, are very helpful and the conversations are getting closer."

Ever since Republican leaders were forced to pull their health care bill because there were not enough votes to pass it, the House Freedom Caucus has been very public about their attempts to negotiate with the White House. The conservative group took a large share of the blame for the legislation's failure the first time around even though there were several moderates who also refused to vote for the bill.

On Tuesday, a source with the House Freedom Caucus familiar with health care negotiations told CNN that caucus chairman Mark Meadows had been in discussions with both the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan and had presented a plan to Ryan over the phone that would essentially allow states to wave certain regulatory requirements. It was unclear if the proposal had any support from moderates.

The fallout for the Freedom Caucus has been intense over the last month with President Donald Trump calling out leaders of the group -- including Meadows -- by name on Twitter. South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford told the Post and Courier last month that White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, a former House Freedom Caucus member, delivered a message to him from Trump that Trump hoped Sanford voted against the health care bill so the President could support a primary challenger against him.

The White House has tried to down play tensions.

On Wednesday morning, Mulvaney appeared on CNN's "New Day" and argued the whole Freedom Caucus-White House showdown had been overblown by the media.

"That story got a little blown out of proportion," Mulvaney said. "It's been an interesting process. I went to go talk to the Freedom Caucus about health care a couple weeks back. They knew what the deal was. The deal was that I'm just on a different team right now. But it's good competition. It's a real collegial thing still."

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