Health care turnaround: How the White House is trying to get Sen. Lee to vote 'yes'

By Health Care FOXBusiness

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Lee)

In an attempt to turn Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) from a no to a yes on the Senate health care bill, White House officials and advisers assured him that his Consumer Freedom Amendment will be fully implemented in the new health care bill, FOX Business has learned.

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FOX Business confirmed through Lee’s spokesman, Conn Carroll, that the senator received a call on Saturday from one of President Donald Trump’s advisers, who assured him that the full amendment – and not a watered down version that caused Lee to initially oppose the Senate health care bill – will be in the latest version of the Senate’s bill.

Carroll also told FOX Business that Lee’s office was contacted by a White House official on Monday, who reinforced to them that the amendment will be added to the bill if the Senate agrees to a motion to proceed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to call for a motion to proceed vote on the House health care bill on Tuesday.

Lee, a leading conservative opponent of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been a key holdout among Republicans and the Trump Administration looking to reform the law. Lee has always been adamant to Senate leadership and the White House that he would vote no to repeal and replace Obamacare, unless the bill reflected more free-market reforms to the law that included his amendment.

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If he votes yes on the bill, it puts the Senate’s repeal and replace effort one step closer to reality—a move that could give President Trump his first major legislative achievement.

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Carroll, Lee’s spokesman, told FOX Business that if the full amendment is in the bill, Lee will likely switch his vote to a yes, even if the bill will need other hold outs to gain the necessary 51 votes for passage. Indeed, other GOP senators, like Susan Collins (R-Maine) still say they oppose the bill.

Lee’s amendment, known as the Consumer Freedom Amendment, was crafted by Lee and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as a way to get the two conservative lawmakers to support the Senate leadership’s health care initiative. Their amendment is supposed to give health insurance companies the option of selling plans that don’t comply with Obamacare mandates.

According to Cruz’s press release describing the amendment, the change to the bill would give insurers who sell “a sufficient number of Obamacare compliant plans with a rating area of a state’s exchange, then that insurer may sell any other plan with that rating area that consumers desire off exchange.”

After changes were made to the original bill during the July 4 recess, Cruz said he could vote yes. But Lee said not enough of the amendment was reflected in the legislation.  

A spokesman for Cruz did not return calls for comment.

The White House has been determined to get Lee to come on board and vote yes on the bill since at least last week, according to sources familiar with the matter.

On Tuesday, Lee met with former Trump Deputy Campaign Manager David Bossie and former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, who were determined to get Lee to change his mind a day after Lee announced through Twitter he would not vote yes.

Lee, according to congressional aides, stood his ground and repeated what he said publicly: he would come back to the negotiating table if Senate leadership was willing to add his entire amendment to the bill.  

After meeting with  Bossie and Lewandowski, Lee received a phone call from President Trump who also tried to change Lee’s mind.

A White House spokeswoman confirmed the phone call on Tuesday but did not elaborate on officials guaranteeing Lee that his full amendment would be in the Obamacare repeal bill, known as Better Care Reconciliation Act.

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