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Congressman quits post in GOP group over health care bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — A New Jersey Republican congressman who helped push the House health care bill to passage quit his post Tuesday as a chairman of the chamber’s moderate Tuesday Group, criticizing colleagues for having “different objectives and a different sense of governing than I do.”

Rep. Tom MacArthur, a second-term congressman, announced his decision at a closed-door meeting of the group, which has roughly 50 members.

MacArthur played a central role in reviving the GOP legislation after an initial version collapsed under opposition from GOP moderates and conservatives. He and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, wrote language that helped push the bill over the top early this month.

It included letting states get federal permission for insurers to boost premiums on some people with pre-existing medical conditions, and to drop insurance coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Senate Republicans are now trying to write their own version of the legislation.

The House bill passed over opposition from all voting Democrats and 20 Republicans. Fifteen of those Republicans are in the Tuesday Group and argued that the measure went too far in diminishing health care coverage for people.

In a written statement, MacArthur said some members of the group “bristled” as he tried making the group a relevant force on key issues.

“Clearly, our group is divided,” the former insurance executive said. “Many in the Tuesday Group are eager to live up to our ideal of being problem-solvers, while others seem unwilling to compromise.”

Two group members said some lawmakers wanted MacArthur to relinquish his leadership post. One said the deal MacArthur negotiated made it easier for conservatives but harder for moderates to vote for the bill.

In addition, one member said MacArthur was told to not negotiate with the conservatives because he’d be encroaching on the authority of some Tuesday Group members, who are senior members of committees with health care jurisdiction. The two members spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose internal group discussions.

MacArthur, who is staying in the group, said Republicans won a congressional majority partly because of their pledge to repeal Obama’s law.

“Inaction on health care was a non-starter for me, and it should be for our entire party. We owe it to the American people who elected us to fix the Obamacare mess,” he said, adding later, “It’s clear that some in the Tuesday Group have different objectives and a different sense of governing than I do.”

Democrats hoping to defeat MacArthur in next year’s elections criticized him.

In a statement by spokesman Evan Lukaske, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — House Democrats’ political arm — said MacArthur showed “a disturbing lack of regard for the families of his district” and called him “a right-wing ideologue.”

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