MacArthur Resigns as Tuesday Group Co-Chair

Rep. Tom MacArthur. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3) today resigned as co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a group of moderate Republicans in the House, citing deep divisions among the members after the House passage of the American Health Care Act earlier this month.

MacArthur had a critical role in getting the AHCA through the House — and the Tuesday Group chairmanship had given him an unusual amount of negotiating clout for a second-term congressman, putting him at the center of discussions between various GOP factions and the Trump White House.

His resignation shows the danger of sticking one’s neck out on major policy initiatives in Washington.

Heated criticism has followed MacArthur for weeks because he authored an amendment that would allow states to set higher rates for coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, a concession to the more conservative Freedom Caucus that ensured the bill’s passage after an earlier attempt failed in March. The AHCA also would cut Medicaid by $880 billion through 2026, according to an analysis of an earlier version of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office.

MacArthur has said repeatedly that because his amendment also sets up $138 billion in funding for “high-risk pools” for those with the most pressing health-care needs, the national outcry over the Republican plan has been overblown. And he has stressed time and again that something needs to be done to control ballooning premiums under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and to stop insurance companies from fleeing state-based marketplaces established by that law.

The health insurance industry is at the risk of collapse, he told constituents at a recent town hall in Willingboro that went on for five hours.  MacArthur, a former insurance executive, told the Tuesday Group that he crafted the amendment because “inaction on health care was a non-starter” and Republicans “owe it to the American people who elected us to fix the Obamacare mess.”

“More than half of the no votes for the AHCA came from Tuesday Group members, despite almost every one of our members voting numerous times to repeal the ACA,” MacArthur said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks for the group’s regular meeting today.

The resignation was first reported by Politico.

“While some embraced my efforts as co-chairman, others have bristled,” MacArthur said. “Clearly, our group is divided. Many in the Tuesday Group are eager to live up to our ideal of being problem-solvers, while others seem unwilling to compromise.”

Among New Jersey’s congressional delegation, only Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) joined MacArthur in voting to pass the AHCA. The three other Republicans — Reps. Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith — said they were concerned with the Medicaid cuts, which estimates show could cut coverage for more than 500,000 New Jersey residents.

The health care debate shifted the dynamics for some congressional districts in New Jersey, including MacArthur’s, according to the Cook Political Report. While the 3rd District is still presumed to go Republican in the 2018 midterms, Cook shifted it slightly to the left. He has also become a target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Coupled with his partnership with the far-right Freedom Caucus, MacArthur’s removal as co-chair of the Tuesday group should finally put to bed the myth of MacArthur as anything other than a right-wing ideologue,” DCCC spokesman Evan Lukaske said.