“The Takeout”: Rep. Mark Meadows on the fate of the health care bill

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The fate of the Republican health care bill in the House could well be determined by lawmakers like Rep. Mark Meadows, the congressman from North Carolina who chairs the Freedom Caucus. That’s the group of around 30 of the most conservative congressmen in the House. For now, the caucus hasn’t taken an official position on the American Healthcare Act, but many of the members have made no secret of their opposition to the GOP’s bill, including Meadows. 

Meadows wants some big changes to the bill put forward by Speaker Paul Ryan and supported by President Trump, he told CBS News’ Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett in the latest episode of “The Takeout” podcast. But he also said that he’s willing to compromise, in the interest of moving forward on an ambitious Republican agenda. House Republicans are in a hurry to get this plan passed.

“The pressure cooker is huge. The internal goal is to have it done by our Easter break,” Meadows said. 

The changes he wants are big ones. He and Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed recently enumerating the things they feel the bill must do: lower insurance premiums; implement non-refundable tax credits, rather than the refundable tax credits that are in the current version; and freeze Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The current iteration of the plan doesn’t stop the Medicaid expansion until 2020 -- too late, in Meadows’ opinion. 

But he believes that “the Medicaid expansion portion of this is really the easiest thing to solve,” if they can get the repeal-and-replace part right, and further, Meadows believes that he can get support for this from the moderate Republicans in the House. He suggested Thursday that the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group -- the caucus of about 50 moderate Republicans -- should meet “together in one room” with the president. “I can guarantee you we get a deal somewhere.”

Meadows wants that deal badly enough to compromise quite a lot, he told “The Takeout.” 

“We are willing to move more than halfway to get a deal, and that’s something that doesn’t get reported, so you’re reporting it here, because getting along doesn’t normally make headlines,” he said.

The Freedom Caucus chairman also explained why it is that Republicans are in such a hurry.

“If we stop this, that means tax reform doesn’t happen,” he said. That means that what we have is a real battle over infrastructure. In any given year there is about three, what I would say [are] must-pass pieces of legislation. This time there’s seven. So, if you really look at it, in this first year, you’re going to have seven – you’ve got the debt ceiling, you’ve got appropriations, you’ve got budget reconciliation, you’ve got the new budget coming up.”

“When you look at all of these different things, it becomes a real do-or-die moment, and the president is not willing to take no for an answer.”

For more from Meadows’ conversation with Garrett and CBS News Senior Political Editor Steve Chaggaris, listen to “The Takeout” podcast, available on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher and CBSNews.com. And follow “The Takeout” on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast.

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.