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April 24, 2014

Posts in "Steve Scalise"

March 24, 2014

Tom Graves Returns to Leadership’s Good Graces, Vows to Keep Conservative Edge

graves001 031214 445x296 Tom Graves Returns to Leaderships Good Graces, Vows to Keep Conservative Edge

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Once chosen as heir to the conservative movement on Capitol Hill, Rep. Tom Graves is coming back into the establishment fold.

The Georgia congressman known for his votes against government spending is poised to next year become chairman on a subcommittee that directs those very same federal dollars.

That marks an unprecedentedly quick turnaround for a member who was nearly shoved off the Appropriations Committee three years ago for voting against chairmens’s bills — and, in fact, was removed from the GOP whip team for advocating against leadership’s positions.

Graves’ colleagues and congressional aides point to his ascent as an example of the maturation of the rambunctious tea party class of 2010 (of which Graves is an honorary member, having joined Congress in a special election just months prior to the wave). His evolution, they say, was spurred by a stinging loss in the 2012 race to chair the conservative Republican Study Committee, despite an endorsement by the group’s founders.

He was on the outs with leadership just months ago, but Graves now inhabits a rare and coveted status on the Hill, drawing accolades from both leadership and outside conservative groups — two camps that have publicly sparred in recent months. Whether he can maintain the middle ground in the long-term has yet to be tested.

In a recent interview in his congressional office, Graves said he is intent on preserving his conservative edge — even with a leadership position on the committee stacked with proud compromisers and deal-cutters who most often attract the intraparty scorn of tea party boosters. The key, he said, is a move from continuing spending to cutting it.

“I think it’s possible to have a conservative serve in a cardinal position, a subcommittee chair position, and be very effective,” he said.

His votes against spending bills were more against continuing resolutions, he said. The committee aspires to produce all spending bills through regular order this year, a process Graves said he would support.

Yet the Georgia Republican, who on his website boasts once sporting a mohawk haircut and riding a motorcycle, is more comfortable in the agitator’s role. His pedigree is that of someone all but groomed to become RSC chairman. In the Georgia statehouse, he co-founded the 216 Policy Group, a cadre of members modeled after the RSC that, at times, advocated against the Republican state speaker’s positions. He was stripped of committee assignments because of it.

So he was naturally frustrated when his campaign to head the RSC was stymied, in part because leadership worked behind the scenes to back his opponent, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., one of Graves’ closest friends on the Hill, said the high school football standout who now trains for triathlons is an intense competitor.

“Tom obviously was disappointed after the RSC run,” Southerland said. “I’m proud of him for saying, ‘You know what? I’ve got to move on. When the horse is dead, dismount and make a difference.’”

To prove that there are no hard feelings, Graves was asked back onto the whip team last year by the House GOP’s head vote-counter. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he has become an invaluable asset to the team, serving as liaison between leadership, appropriators and conservatives.

“He’s good at helping me get votes,” McCarthy said. “He has great knowledge from approps. He has great knowledge from a base within the conference, to explain approps.”

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said Graves gives the committee conservative credibility and he helps attract support from members who might otherwise vote against any spending bills, mostly recently on the omnibus appropriations bill. That may be why Westmoreland used his perch on the Republican Steering Committee to help begrudgingly place Graves on the committee in the first place.

“I don’t know that he really wanted to do it. He didn’t seem really excited about it. But we needed someone conservative on appropriations,” Westmoreland said.

Now, a spate of retirements at the top rungs of the committee put the junior member in line for a chairmanship. But Rep. Tom Cole, who chairs the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee — the panel Graves is most likely to head next year — said Graves is figuring out his place in the conference.

“I think he’s figuring out that you can be a very conservative member of the appropriations committee and get things done, or you can stand on the outside and throw rocks and not get anything done,” the Oklahoman said.

Graves, a tall, fit 44-year-old, said he has embraced his go-between role. And he has worked to build what he calls a “unique relationship” with Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., a gruff, cigar-puffing 77-year-old.

“It’s been joked about that we’re the odd couple,” Graves said. “We get along very well. We work together. We don’t always agree, but we’re very open and transparent about where we stand on things.”

That relationship underwent some strain during the October government shutdown, aides and members said. Graves pushed a funding bill apart from leadership that would have disallowed financing the Affordable Care Act, and rankled Rogers in the process.

The House eventually passed a different bill defunding Democrats’ health care law, but it was not taken up by the Senate, and Graves eventually voted against the deal to end the shutdown. But he later supported the bipartisan budget deal setting topline spending levels for two years.

That vote, and the one he cast for the resulting omnibus appropriations bill, cost Graves some stature with outside groups such as Heritage Action, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, who keep scorecards grading members’ performance on key votes. Graves used to be one of the highest scoring members, but his score this year has dipped.

That is not troubling yet, said FreedomWorks Executive Vice President Adam Brandon. But he is keeping watch.

“I’m not going to go beat him because he’s only voting in the 80s,” he said. “If he starts dipping into the 70s and going native, we’re not going to be cool with that.”

Correction: 6:26 p.m.

An earlier version of this post mischaracterized Graves’ vote on the bill ending the shutdown.

March 17, 2014

RSC Chairman: ‘We’re Not Done’ Until Obamacare Alternative Hits House Floor

scalise 038 020514 445x296 RSC Chairman: Were Not Done Until Obamacare Alternative Hits House Floor

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House GOP leadership intends to put forward a formal framework for repealing and replacing Obamacare, but has so far stopped short of promising to turn that framework into actual legislative text.

Should leaders decline to take that next step, it won’t sit well with Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise.

“I feel good about where we are right now,” the Louisiana Republican told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview on Monday, “but we’re not done until we get a bill on the floor. Full story

February 27, 2014

Tea Party Pointing Fingers at GOP Leadership, 5 Years In

bachmann 160 022614 445x296 Tea Party Pointing Fingers at GOP Leadership, 5 Years In

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Rick Santelli rant heard ’round the world five years ago is credited with starting the tea party, and if you ask Republicans in Congress, the conservative movement has a mixed legacy.

“There’s a reality that we have a president that is further left than any president we’ve ever had in history, and there’s a reality that Harry Reid is a compliant, willing accomplice of the president to accomplish his agenda,” Rep. Michele Bachmann told CQ Roll Call. “So knowing that, I think the tea party is doing as well as it can.”

The Minnesota Republican founded and is still serving as chairwoman of Congress’ Tea Party Caucus, but she is calling it quits this year instead of seeking re-election.

Bachmann identified the 2010 election as “clearly” the “high-water mark” for the movement: “The tea party was responsible for removing the gavel from Nancy Pelosi’s hands and putting it in John Boehner’s hand and making him speaker. That effectively put the brakes on the Obama agenda in a very forthright way.”

But five years in, the political movement is not easy to evaluate. Among the sentiments we heard from Republican lawmakers as we assessed the tea party over the past week were that it’s been successful, that it’s pushed legislative change on spending issues, that it’s still experiencing growing pains, and even that it’s “dangerous.”

Full story

February 25, 2014

Fate Uncertain for House Flood Insurance Bill (Updated)

cantorhoyer042613 445x296 Fate Uncertain for House Flood Insurance Bill (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated: Feb. 25, 7:56 p.m. | The House is poised to vote this week on legislation to ease the burden on homeowners seeking affordable flood insurance, but the bill might not have the votes — on either side of the aisle.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced last week that he would bring the bill up under suspension, an expedited floor procedure in which passage hinges on getting a two-thirds majority of those members present to vote “yes.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said on Tuesday afternoon that Democratic support for the GOP proposal was nebulous, at best.

“I presume if you put something on the suspension calendar, you want to it done quickly,” he told reporters at his weekly briefing. “But you gotta get more votes, and right now, although I have not spoken to [Finance Services ranking member] Maxine Waters, I understand that she does not believe this bill does the job that we need done.”

Waters, a California Democrat, was a champion in 2012 of bipartisan legislation with then-Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., dubbed the “Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act,” which reduced subsidies for homeowners to shore up the cash-strapped National Flood Insurance Program.

With flood insurance premiums now skyrocketing, however, lawmakers — particularly in flood-prone states and districts — are clamoring to revisit that law. The Senate last month passed legislation that would effectively halt implementation of Biggert-Waters for four years.

Hoyer said Tuesday that he and other Democratic leaders had not made a determination yet about whether they would whip their members for or against the House Republicans’ proposed bill.

“I’ve just asked this morning, ‘What does the bill do that they’re presenting?’ and I haven’t read the memo yet,” Hoyer conceded.

Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., a lead negotiator in paving the way for the GOP leadership-approved flood insurance bill to come to the floor, dismissed vote count anxieties on Tuesday evening.

“Literally, as we speak, minor edits are being made to the bill so that we can make this a truly bipartisan bill,” Grimm told CQ Roll Call. “I personally think, when this comes to the floor on Thursday, people are going to be surprised that there’s going to be overwhelming support.”

In a letter sent to colleagues last week, Cantor said there were a number of House Republicans who had been instrumental in drafting the flood insurance bill slated for debate: Grimm, Bill Cassidy and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Steven M. Palazzo of Mississippi, Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey and Floridians Rich Nugent, Gus Bilirakis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Vern Buchanan and Dennis A. Ross.

“The Senate bill unfortunately removes much needed reforms and imposes additional costs on taxpayers and is a non-starter in this body,” Cantor wrote.

But Grimm said that House Democrats were at the table, too — including Waters.

“I had been working with Maxine Waters from the very beginning,” Grimm said. “She’s been giving us edits over the last couple of days.

“And Gregory Meeks,” said Grimm of the New York Democrat, “he said to me, a month ago, ‘if this isn’t retroactive, I can’t be part of it.’ And I’m like, ‘Greg, let’s work on it right now and make it retroactive,’ so there’s an example of, the retroactivity of this bill was myself, Cassidy and Gregory Meeks and [Louisiana Democrat] Cedric Richmond.”

Meanwhile, more conservative lawmakers without ties to districts vulnerable to flooding could be put off by the legislation. The Club for Growth, fresh from releasing its 2013 legislative scorecard on Monday, announced on Tuesday morning that it would also “score” the flood insurance vote.

“Congress should end the NFIP and return the flood insurance industry back to the private sector,” the group said in a statement, calling the program, “hostile to liberty and limited government.”

Ben Weyl contributed to this report.

February 7, 2014

Steve Scalise Collects Conservative Victories, Looks to Health Care

scalise 040 020514 445x296 Steve Scalise Collects Conservative Victories, Looks to Health Care

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In his Rayburn office on Capitol Hill, Rep. Steve Scalise has a case of triumphs.

The Louisiana Republican exhibits an impressive array of corks under glass in a custom-made display-box coffee table. Each was popped from a Champagne bottle to mark a momentous occasion: averting the New Year’s 2013 fiscal cliff, personal achievements such as becoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee and local legislative milestones such as funding for the Gulf Coast recovery.

A Sharpie pen marks the date of consumption, and the corks rest near small gold plates inscribed with the events that called for the bubbly.

With more than a dozen in all, Scalise hopes he’ll add to the collection in the months he has left before the end of his term leading the influential RSC.

Scalise’s broad mission, he told CQ Roll Call, is “to help move leadership to a more conservative place.”

And while that could easily be the stated goal of every RSC chairman, Scalise now has an even bigger task before him: offering the American voting public a glimpse of what kind of policy Congress could send to the president’s desk if only there were a Republican Senate to help.

“It’s important what we do the rest of the year,” Scalise said in the course of two more-than-20-minute sit-down interviews. “I want us to be bold.”

Full story

February 5, 2014

RSC Names New Executive Director

Several months after ousting its long-serving executive director over allegations of confidentiality breaches, the Republican Study Committee has tapped a successor.

Will Dunham will take the reins of the House’s largest members’ organization committed to advancing conservative policy, RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La., announced Wednesday. Full story

January 28, 2014

The Conservative Response to the State of the Union? Sue the President

While the official GOP response to the State of the Union might have struck a warmer tone, President Barack Obama’s call for action isn’t going over so well with some other Republicans, who want to sue the president.

Just minutes after the president’s address, conservative lawmakers trashed the speech as an end run around Congress.

“The president renewed his commitment that he is going to be King Obama,” Rep. Michele Bachmann said. The Minnesota Republican said the president had called on Congress to make this a “year of action.”

“And if we don’t, he’ll act on his own,” Bachmann continued. “This is something that’s really frightening to the American people. The president refuses to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.” Full story

January 8, 2014

Anniversary of War on Poverty Splits GOP, Democrats

poverty 037 010814 445x332 Anniversary of War on Poverty Splits GOP, Democrats

Lee, second from left, gathered with other Democratic lawmakers and Robb, center, for an event to mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the “war on poverty” on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats may have taken up income inequality as their election-year campaign platform, but Republicans appear determined to not let their counterparts own the subject.

To the annoyance of some Democrats, six members of the conservative Republican Study Committee held a news conference Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” and to call for a different tactic to address indigence in this nation — one that is leaner on direct aid and more robust in job creation.

“While this war may have been launched with the best of intentions, it’s clear we’re now engaged in a battle of attrition that has left more Americans in poverty than at any other point in our nation’s history,” Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., said at the beginning of the news conference, noting that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty today. He did not point out, however, that even though the raw number of poverty-stricken people has increased, the percentage of poor Americans has fallen from 19 percent when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964 to about 15 percent today.

Southerland, the chairman of the RSC’s anti-poverty initiative, said that in the 50 years of the war on poverty, the government has spent more than $15 trillion on programs designed to combat those issues.

“Clearly, the big government ideas of the past need to be improved and aren’t working to the extent that they should,” Southerland said. ”We have a moral obligation to break the mold.”

Southerland said there were three pillars to fighting poverty: two-parent families, quality education and a stable job.

“Over the next year, we will be bringing interested members together to discuss conservative solutions that empower individuals and not the federal government,” he said. Full story

January 3, 2014

Cantor Lays Out January Legislative Agenda

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Cantor, center, outlined the House’s January legislative agenda on Friday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House will have a busy January judging by the lengthy legislative agenda Majority Leader Eric Cantor circulated among his colleagues on Friday.

The Virginia Republican’s memo, obtained by 218, lays out the obvious items of business: passing conference reports for the farm bill and for legislation funding the nation’s water programs, plus an appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal 2014.

The GOP-run House will also continue to assail the president’s health care law, starting next week with a measure to address potential security breaches on HealthCare.gov. Cantor released a memo on that specific priority on Thursday.

Cantor also told lawmakers to familiarize themselves with other initiatives that could come to the floor in the weeks ahead, such as a possible Iran sanctions resolution that has been on the back-burner since late last year.

Full story

December 30, 2013

The House Year in Review

This year, doing the business of the People’s House was, at best, a struggle. It’s well-known that 2013 was, legislatively, the least productive session in congressional history. Leaders strained to get to 218 — a majority in the 435-seat House (in case you had no idea where the blog name came from). And there were some pretty notable news stories as a result of all this congressional dysfunction.

But as painful as the year was for members, covering the House was a pleasure, one which we here at 218 only had the honor of doing for about half the year.

In that short time, 218 — or “Goppers,” as we were formerly known, which rhymes with “Whoppers,” for all you still wondering about that — had more than a few favorite stories.

Among the labors of love, there was a piece about the 10 Republicans who could one day be speaker, a story on an internal August playbook that went out to House Republicans telling them to profess how they were fighting Washington, and a piece (in response to his “calves the size of cantaloupes” comment) asking the question: How do you solve a problem like Steve King? Full story

December 13, 2013

RSC Members Reflect on Paul Teller’s Departure

Dozens of prominent conservatives off Capitol Hill are rushing to the defense of Paul Teller, the longtime executive director of the Republican Study Committee who was fired on Wednesday.

Republicans inside the halls of Congress, however, are split.

Some members have expressed sympathy for the man they considered a friend and ally.

“I’ll tell you, my first reaction to hearing the news was, ‘How can I hire him?’” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Others said he had a history of undermining committee confidentiality agreements, leaking conversations to outside groups and actively working against the RSC when it was pushing a strategy with which he disagreed. Full story

December 12, 2013

On the Budget Vote, Watch the Rule

pelosi 240 101713 445x281 On the Budget Vote, Watch the Rule

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The bipartisan budget deal might have a tougher time passing than Republican or Democratic leaders first thought.

Although House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she didn’t think her members would “let this bill go down,” she also said Democrats are likely to vote against the rule — the procedural vote that brings the bill to the floor.

If that’s the case, and Democrats remain unified in that effort, it won’t take many in the GOP to sink the rule.

There are many more than 20 Republicans who hate this deal. A group of them assembled at a monthly “Conversations with Conservatives” event Wednesday, where Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said the only part of him that was “undecided” on this vote was “whether I’m a strong no or a really strong no.”

”I think it’s a terrible plan,” he said.

Indeed, plenty of conservatives — who have exhibited willingness in the past to play politics with the procedural rule vote — are wondering what’s in this deal for them.

To make matters worse, those Republican members are frequently in contact with the outside conservatives groups that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has blasted for two consecutive days. And given the news releases and Twitter fights, conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America abhor this deal and GOP leadership more than ever before. (To make matters even worse, a top conservative staffer beloved by the groups was forced to resign Wednesday amid charges that he was leaking member-level conversations to the groups.)

If the conservative groups and the band of Republicans can mount a speedy offensive, they can sink the rule, and, potentially, the budget deal.

For Democrats, there’s a calculated risk in allowing that to happen. On one hand, this is probably just about the only budget deal they’re going to get. Allowing it to go down could prevent any sort of relief from the sequester. On the other, if Republicans need help on the rule, Democrats might — just might — be able to extract some other legislative concessions, and tops on their wish list is an extension of unemployment insurance.

Democrats have made it clear that the absence of an unemployment insurance extension is a major issue for them. Pelosi herself has issued less than lukewarm words on the deal because it does not include it.

Boehner has signaled that Republicans could be open to dealing with that issue separately from the budget, but he has made no firm commitment. Democrats, meanwhile, are insistent Congress extend the benefits.

On Thursday, Pelosi said she didn’t “even think it should be paid for,” a reference to the Republican insistence that such an extension have an offset.

Either way, the rule is due up for consideration on Thursday afternoon. It’s an open question how it plays out. Will Republicans be able to pass the rule on their own? Will any Republicans break from their ranks? Will Democrats help at all? And what might the legislative implications be if Democrats have to help?

December 11, 2013

Scalise Forces Top RSC Aide to Resign Over Leaks

climber 09 062504 445x295 Scalise Forces Top RSC Aide to Resign Over Leaks

Teller, center, was asked by Scalise to resign effective immediately. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The longtime executive director of the conservative Republican Study Committee has been asked to resign by first-term Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La.

Scalise told lawmakers at the weekly closed-door RSC meeting on Wednesday that Paul Teller was let go earlier in the day, according to multiple GOP lawmakers who were in the room.

Scalise confirmed to CQ Roll Call that he had asked Teller to leave. “When I ran to restore the RSC as a member-driven organization, we obviously got a lot of history, a lot of members interested in advancing the conservative agenda and that’s what our focus is,” Scalise said. “And we all rely on staff and we have to have the full trust of our staff. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case, and all the current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee support this decision, as well as the founders.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Scalise’s immediate predecessor at the helm of the RSC, said, “Paul Teller is a great guy [who's] been great for the conservative movement, but I support Steve and everything he’s doing.”

Sources said Scalise made a brief announcement to the group without much elaboration, saying it was not the appropriate forum in which to do so.

Members exiting the meeting confirmed that Teller was asked to resign, effective immediately, for a record of undermining confidentiality agreements, leaking conversations to outside conservative groups and actively working against the RSC when it was pursuing a strategy with which he disagreed.

“There were some trust issues,” said one lawmaker.

“I like Paul, but I gotta trust Steve’s judgment,” said another. “I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to this than we know right now.”

The move was first reported by Politico.

Teller was in the middle of one of the uglier intra-GOP fights of recent years when, in 2011, he was castigated by Republicans for compiling an internal whip list on the 2011 debt vote. When Teller’s whip list was discovered — along with emails in which he urged outside organizations to help defeat Speaker A. John Boehner’s debt proposal — members targeted by the group were incensed.

Jordan, who was RSC chairman at the time, apologized for the episode, but Teller never regained the trust of many of the Republicans who were targeted. Teller’s firing over leaks to those same outside organizations that have been a thorn in leadership’s side showed how long some of the memories were.

Scalise’s decision to retain Teller late last year was a surprise to many members who wanted him gone. But Teller always retained a strong base of support in the larger conservative infrastructure off Capitol Hill. Teller worked as executive director under seven RSC chairmen.

September 17, 2013

Conservatives to Unveil Obamacare Replacement Bill

scalise 158 062613 445x296 Conservatives to Unveil Obamacare Replacement Bill

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While the House GOP continues to grapple with how to defund or delay Obamacare in a continuing resolution or debt ceiling deal, the conservative Republican Study Committee is preparing to unveil its bill to fully replace the 2010 health law.

At a news conference set for Wednesday, RSC Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana and RSC Health Care Working Group Chairman Phil Roe of Tennessee will roll out their long-anticipated “repeal-and-replace” legislation. Fellow GOP Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, John Fleming of Louisiana, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Todd Rokita of Indiana are also expected to attend the event.

The RSC press release announcing the bill’s introduction included no hints of what the legislation might contain. But in August, CQ Roll Call got the scoop on the measure’s anticipated fall debut.

“We’ve obviously fought very hard to repeal the bill, to unravel different pieces on it that are falling on its own weight, anyway,” Scalise said in a brief phone interview at the time. “But we’ve also been working to put together a true alternative that would lower market costs and fix some real problems that existed before Obamacare that are made worse with it.”

Scalise didn’t give a lot of details during that phone call , but said the bill would include protections for people with pre-existing conditions — one of the main benefits of Obamacare. Full story

August 8, 2013

Can GOP ‘Replace’ Obamacare? The RSC Has a Plan

scalise080813 445x296 Can GOP Replace Obamacare? The RSC Has a Plan

The Republican Study Committee, chaired by Scalise, is drafting legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans have held 40 votes to repeal Obamacare, but their promise to come up with legislation to replace it with something else has been far more elusive. That may be about to change.

The 173-member strong Republican Study Committee is on track to roll out legislation this fall that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a comprehensive alternative, Chairman Steve Scalise told CQ Roll Call on Thursday.

Though it wouldn’t be the first Obamacare repeal-and-replace proposal floated by individual GOP lawmakers in either chamber of Congress, the RSC bill is one that could at least gain traction on the House floor, given the conservative group’s size and influence.

It would, however, have to pass muster with House Republican leaders, who have not yet been formally acquainted with the legislative text, according to Scalise. It would also likely need the blessing of outside advocacy groups such as Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth, which could make or break the bill’s chances of passage.

The Louisiana Republican said the plan would include protections for people with pre-existing conditions — one of the main benefits of Obamacare.

“We address that to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be discriminated against,” he said. But, he promised the bill would not “put in place mandates that increase the costs of health care and push people out of the insurance that they like,” Scalise said.

“We want to make sure that, when it’s rolled out, that people who have an interest in health care, from families to small and large business groups, all understand just what the difference is between our bill and the president’s health care law,” Scalise said, demurring on whether the RSC would need outside stakeholders’ approval in order to move forward with the bill’s introduction. “There are very dramatic differences, not just in the policy but in the cost.”

He declined to detail specifics — and those specifics have tripped up GOP efforts in the past. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s effort earlier this year to shift some Obamacare funding into state high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions tanked after a conservative backlash. Indeed, some conservatives and outside groups simply want to leave the issue up to the states and are far more interested in “repeal” than “replace.”

The failure of the GOP to coalesce around an alternative — and the failure of the Cantor bill — has become one of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s favorite talking points.

Scalise said he expects his party leaders to “have a real interest” in the RSC proposal, given that the group has been “working with very respected leaders in health care in the Republican conference.”

The fall timetable for the “replace” bill is included in the RSC’s internal quarterly progress report obtained by CQ Roll Call. Scalise wrote on July 31 that a replacement “with patient-centered reforms that lower costs without the taxes and mandates in the President’s law” was “slated for introduction when we return this fall.”

“The RSC has been working for a long time on alternatives to Obamacare,” Scalise said in response to CQ Roll Call inquiries about the memo. “We’ve obviously fought very hard to repeal the bill, to unravel different pieces on it that are falling on its own weight, anyway. But we’ve also been working to put together a true alternative that would lower market costs, and fix some real problems that existed before Obamacare that are made worse with it.”

Scalise said that the bill has not yet been completed, and he did not clarify when after Congress returns from the August recess it might be introduced.

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