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Conservative Outside Groups Held Back On GOP "Keep Your Plan" Bill

"I think generally we're happy to have attention focused on Obamacare," said Heritage Action's Dan Holler.

Posted on November 15, 2013, at 2:53 p.m. ET

With the help of 39 Democrats, House Republicans easily passed legislation intended to allow Americans to keep health insurance policies that do not meet Obamacare's standards.

Making that task easier? Relative silence from outside conservative groups.

Groups like Heritage Action, Freedom Works, and the Club for Growth have long been a thorn in the side of Republican leadership: pushing for an all-or-nothing approach to repeal of the health care law. A bill introduced last April by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, intended to move money from one part of Obamacare to pre-existing condition pools, was pulled after loud conservative opposition that it was a continuation of Obamacare.

But the "Keep Your Health Plan Act," introduced by Republican Fred Upton, received no such pushback, despite the fact it did not defund or repeal a part of the law. Instead, the Upton bill allowed insurance companies to offer plans previously deemed unqualified under the ACA through 2014.

"One of the fears [with the Cantor bill] is that you were setting up another entitlement which is distinctly different from the bill on the floor today," said Heritage Action's Dan Holler. "I think generally we're happy to have attention focused on Obamacare… Our focus is on the entire law, more so than the smaller pieces of it. Let's be honest you can't do a fix here and a fix there but the more attention that's focused on the law the better off we are all going to be."

Club for Growth had told Roll Call earlier this week they supported the legislation.

However, Heritage Action and Club for Growth did not "key vote" the bill, a move that would have sent a signal to lawmakers which way the group wanted them to vote. A "yes" key vote would have meant strong support and a "no" key vote, as happened with the Cantor bill earlier this year, will often mean significant GOP defections on a bill.

FreedomWorks, another conservative group that pushed the defund strategy in October also did not key vote the Upton bill. But Dean Clancy, VP of public policy for the group, said that Congress needed to be focused on full repeal with some conservative plans to replace it.

"We chose not to key vote the Upton bill because, while a positive step and good policy on the whole, our members really don't want Congress to tinker with ObamaCare; they want Congress to replace it with patient-centered care," Clancy said in an email.

"ObamaCare can't be fixed, it needs to be uprooted. There is no sure way to restore the millions of cancelled insurance policies, but Congress can stop the bleeding," he said earlier in a statement.