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House Freedom Caucus Congressman Believes Next Health Care Legislation Will Pass

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now we're going to head to the other side of the Capitol to talk about a movement within the Republican Party that's played a big role in President Trump's first 100 days.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I never said repeal and replace Obamacare. You've all heard my speeches. I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days. I have a long time.

MARTIN: That's President Trump. Of course, he did promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And when he didn't succeed at first he blamed a caucus of his own party for getting in the way. That would be the Freedom Caucus. So we thought we'd also like to hear from one of its key members about the first 100 days. Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio is a co-founder and formerly led the group. Congressman Jordan, thank you so much for speaking with us.

JIM JORDAN: Good to be with you.

MARTIN: So we just heard from Senator Charles Grassley. So I'll start by asking you the same question I asked him - how do you evaluate how President Trump is doing so far?

JORDAN: Well, I think the administration's off to a good start with Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. You know, so much of the campaign last year was about who is going to be on the Supreme Court, who's going to be able to make that nomination. And then, of course, I think Jeff Sessions running the Justice Department. Some of your listeners may disagree, but I think the previous Justice Department was far too focused on politics and not on the rule of law and not on administering the law and enforcing the law and on administering justice. So I'm - I think two things you can point to that show the good start they're off to.

MARTIN: The Freedom Caucus really showed its strength when it prevented a vote on President Trump's proposed health care bill earlier this month. And following that defeat, the president tweeted, quote, "The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team and fast," unquote. How would you describe what you think the role of the Freedom Caucus is in relation to the Trump administration?

JORDAN: Well, I mean, first of all, tweets and statements and blame don't change facts. And the facts were that the bill as originally introduced wasn't what we told the American people we were going to do. What did we tell them we were going to do?

We told them we were going to repeal Obamacare. Let's do everything we can to make that happen. We told them we were going to reform the tax code. Let's do that. We told them we were going to secure our southern border, build a wall. Let's do that. We told them we were going to strengthen our military. So let's do what we said. It is no more complicated than that. Now, getting it done in this crazy town, sometimes that's a little harder. But that's the mission and that's what we're about.

MARTIN: So on Thursday, House Republican leaders again delayed a proposed vote on legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. And in our conversation right now you seem very optimistic. I think you feel that you've improved the situation, that you feel this is the right proposal. But do you feel that you've got something that will actually pass both houses at this point?

JORDAN: I do think we're going to get the votes in the House and get it over to the Senate. As I said before, that we have to be honest with the American people. We are not getting the full repeal, so we've got more work to do in the Senate, more work to do down the road to accomplish what we said. But we think this is the best we're going to get out of the House, and so we're for it. We've been trying to make it better. We now think we have it at a point where it is better.

Because of our engagement, because we held out, because we got involved in this debate over the last eight weeks, you now have legislation where all the Obamacare taxes are gone right away. You have legislation where able-bodied folks in the Medicaid population, the Medicaid expansion population have a work component. And, of course, this newest amendment that has brought Freedom Caucus members on board is we at least give states the ability to waive out of those key Obamacare regulations that drive up the cost of premiums. I think the vast, vast majority of the House Freedom Caucus supports the legislation, and we think we're real close to having the overall votes we need.

MARTIN: That's Congressman Jim Jordan. He represents Ohio's 4th Congressional District. He's the former chair of the House Freedom Caucus. And he was nice enough to talk to us from the Capitol. Congressman Jordan, thank you so much for speaking to us.

JORDAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.