Republicans reverse course on plan to exempt Congress from some health care changes

Caught off guard by a provision in a new agreement to be added to a GOP health overhaul bill, Republicans on Wednesday said they would drop language which seemed to exempt members of Congress from coverage changes that would be allowed under the Obama health law, as conservatives in the House rallied around the underlying Republican health bill.

"This is common sense," said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), as he said the exemption should be dropped. "We're going to make sure that members of Congress are under the same rules as our constituents."

The issue arose as part of a deal struck between more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a more moderate GOP lawmaker who has taken the lead on trying to broke a deal among Republicans on health care.

"Congressman MacArthur does not believe Members of Congress or their staff should receive special treatment," read a statement from his office, as the GOP moved to alter the provision that seemed to hold lawmakers harmless.

The health care deal involving MacArthur allows states to make changes to certain requirements, like "Essential Health Benefits," which must be covered in health insurance policies - but the language of the amendment made clear that members of Congress would not be subject to any of those possible changes.

Here is the provision:

Only if you do a little research will you find out that Section 1312(d)(3)(D) of the Affordable Care Act applies to coverage in the exchanges for members of Congress and their staff.

Once that detail started to make the rounds, it didn't take long for Republicans to signal that it should be dumped.

"No special favors," tweeted Rep. Walker, the chair of the Republican Study Committee.

As the GOP backed away from that provision, Republicans seemed to be making headway in coming to a broader agreement on a health care overhaul bill.

"Still negotiating, but it looks like maybe we have something that everyone can agree with," said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA).

"We're getting close," said Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), as he said there were "some good compromises with regard to states being able to determine some of their own destiny" on health care coverage details.

Some though were still not sold.

"I'm not there yet," said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), as the Freedom Caucus member was trailed through the basement of the Capitol by a gaggle of reporters.

"I have to finish reading all the language and compare all of that text to the old text," Yoho said, though the Freedom Caucus seemed ready to get on board.

"I'd say we still have a ways to go to sorting out the health care issue," said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), as not many members were forecasting an immediate deal and vote.

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