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Pro-Trump group pulls ads targeting GOP senator on ObamaCare repeal

An outside group aligning itself with President Trump has pulled its ads targeting Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE over his opposition to the Senate GOP’s healthcare reform bill, citing progress in the Nevada Republican’s willingness to negotiate.

“We have pulled the ads we released earlier today in Nevada, and we remain hopeful that Senator Heller and his colleagues can agree on what the American people already know: that repealing and replacing Obamacare must happen,” said Erin Montgomery, a spokesperson for America First Policies.

Montgomery added that the group, which was created by former members of Trump’s and Pence’s staffs, “is pleased to learn that Senator Dean Heller has decided to come back to the table to negotiate with his colleagues on the Senate bill.”

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The group said it would launch a seven-figure ad buy against Heller late last week, just hours after he announced his opposition to the Senate GOP’s healthcare legislation. Heller was the fifth Republican senator to publicly oppose the bill.

The move apparently angered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.). McConnell complained about the ads over the weekend during a phone call with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, according to The New York Times.

Republicans hold a narrow majority, and Heller is the most vulnerable GOP senator up for reelection in 2018, hailing from a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE won and Democrats swept during last year’s elections.

Montgomery added that the group’s decision to pull the ads was made after a closed-door meeting with the Senate Republican Conference at the White House, which Heller attended.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names The Hill’s Morning Report – Treasury, Fed urge more spending, lending to ease COVID-19 wreckage MORE (R-S.D.) hinted that the ads came up during the closed-door meeting between Senate Republicans and Trump.

“I wouldn’t say there was any real specific discussion, but it might have been referenced,” the No. 3 Senate Republican told reporters after the meeting.

Pressed on who referenced it, he said: “Sen. Heller, maybe.”

A senior GOP aide pushed back against the notion that Heller has “come back to the table,” arguing Heller never stopped negotiating on the legislation. “The idea that Sen. Heller ever left the table is nonsense. He’s been working with his colleagues non-stop to try and improve this bill, including attending a key meeting last night with other expansion state Senators,” the aide said.

The decision to pull the ads is a U-turn from earlier Tuesday afternoon, when America First Policies announced that it had released TV and radio ads urging Heller to vote yes on the legislation.

“Instead of putting this bill in jeopardy, undermining those Senators still working toward a solution and abandoning the commitment he and every other elected Republican has made to the American people, Senator Heller needs to find a way to get to ‘yes’ and keep this process moving,” Brian Walsh, president of America First Policies, said at the time.

Rachel Roubein contributed.

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