04:43 - Source: CNN
Speed vs. substance in the GOP health care push

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Rep. Tom MacArthur is a moderate New Jersey Republican

He's in the headlines recently over his role in negotiating health care legislation

Washington CNN —  

After months of tense, intra-party division on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, House Republicans appeared to move closer to an agreement this week.

That’s in large part due to the MacArthur amendment, named after the Republican congressman from New Jersey who proposed it.

The amendment would allow states to seek waivers to opt out of certain Obamacare requirements that protect those with pre-existing conditions.

But who is Rep. Tom MacArthur?

For starters, he hasn’t been in Congress very long. MacArthur, 56, was first elected in 2014 and won re-election last year with close to 60% of the vote. MacArthur represents New Jersey’s third congressional district, located in the southern half of the Garden State.

He represents a swing district that backed President Donald Trump last year but previously supported President Barack Obama twice, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. And Democrats have already begun targeting MacArthur for his re-election bid next year.

MacArthur supported Trump’s presidential bid and was the only New Jersey Republican to attend the Republican National Convention last year, according to NJ.com.

He’s a leader of the Tuesday Group, a caucus of moderate Republicans, and he has an extensive background in the insurance industry, where he once served as the chairman and CEO of York Risk Services Group. Prior to joining Congress, he was the mayor of Randolph, New Jersey.

In January, when House Republicans voted on a budget resolution to repeal Obamacare, MacArthur was one of just nine Republicans who opposed it, saying at the time that Republicans needed to slow down.

Negotiators have been working to find a deal on the bill that would bring enough conservatives and moderates to vote yes on the bill.

Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus wanted to nix aspects of Obamacare, such as the benefits insurers must cover in their policies, known as “essential health benefits.” But moderates wanted to keep in place those benefits, which include coverage for services like maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs.

The MacArthur amendment would essentially keep those insurance reforms in the law but allow states to seek a waiver to weaken them if they so choose.

While the House Freedom Caucus approved the amendment, some of the moderates who MacArthur represents were not as happy.

He defended his amendment to reporters on Wednesday.

“The latest proposal I made was just trying to bridge this divide between people that are holding two important views: people that are saying we’re not going to fix health care unless we bring the cost down, which means we have to give the states some flexibility, and people that are saying we can’t pull the rug out from under people that are vulnerable,” MacArthur said.

The congressman said his amendment would still allow those with pre-existing conditions to get coverage.

“We need to protect the most vulnerable people in the current plan,” he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Thursday on CNN’s “New Day.” “These are people with pre-existing conditions. We want to make sure they are protected.”

“Secondly, we have to give the states flexibility to bring premiums down for everyone else,” MacArthur added.

MacArthur has been married to his wife, Debbie, for more than 30 years, according to his congressional website. They are the parents of three children, including one who passed away at the age of 11.

He grew up in Hebron, Connecticut and graduated from Hofstra University in New York.

CNN’s Lauren Fox and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.