Vulnerable Republicans back ObamaCare replacement


Several vulnerable Republican lawmakers joined their party Thursday to pass the landmark plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare through the House, casting risky votes that complicate their chances forward in the 2018 midterms.

The measure passed with 217 yes votes, all Republican — only one vote more than the threshold Republicans needed for passage.

Twenty Republicans, including many facing their own tough races in 2018, voted against the bill in a move that could make it harder for Democrats to hang the bill on them if it proves unpopular. But a number of GOP lawmakers who also face competitive reelection races next year did cast a vote with their party, despite being top Democratic targets. 

Those lawmakers who voted yes include GOP Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), Rod Blum (Iowa), Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.), David Valadao (Calif.), David Young (Iowa) and John Faso (N.Y.).

{mosads}Other lawmakers, including GOP Reps. Mimi Walters (Calif.) and Don Bacon (Neb.) voted yes in the face of midterm election threats, but their votes had been expected.

Fourteen Republicans who voted for the bill sit in districts won by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, another potential sign that they could face tougher reelections. They include Reps. Martha McSally (Ariz.), Steve Knight (Calif.), Ed Royce (Calif.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), Peter Roskam (Ill.), Kevin Yoder (Kan.), John Culberson (Texas), Pete Sessions (Texas), Paulsen, Issa, Walters, Denham, Valadao and Curbelo.

Public and private wavering by the most vulnerable GOP lawmakers kept the bill’s fate up in the air until seconds before the bill’s five-minute vote on the floor expired. 

In the days leading up to the vote, Issa kept his cards close to his chest. He refused to share his position on the bill with reporters on Tuesday, saying it was “none of your business.”

It wasn’t until later that day that Issa told a local reporter that he was undecided and still reviewing the bill’s changes. 

Issa ultimately voted for the bill Thursday, sending out a statement just minutes after the bill passed applauding the House GOP’s efforts and saying that Republicans had fulfilled their promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

“Today’s vote gives a voice to the victims of Obamacare, the millions of Americans who are paying higher premiums, receiving less coverage and for whom the status quo offered no end in sight,” Issa said. “Obamacare was a failure from the get-go. Now is the time to make it right.”

Curbelo followed soon after with his own statement in both English and Spanish, adding that he hopes that the Senate’s bill addresses some of his lingering concerns with the House proposal.

“Today’s vote is just a step in the legislative process for this bill — not the end of it,” Curbelo said. 

“We have worked hard to improve the legislation, but we have a long way to go. I have received assurances that the concerns I maintain will be addressed in the Senate, and for weeks I have been in contact with several offices there to make sure we are working collaboratively.”

While many vulnerable Republicans helped push the bill across the finish line, there were still a handful who opposed the legislation. The 2018 Democratic targets who voted against the bill included GOP Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.), Barbara Comstock (Va.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Will Hurd (Texas), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Ryan Costello (Pa.) and John Katko (N.Y.).

The spotlight was also on House Republicans who are considered top Senate contenders in 2018. Of those, only Comstock opposed the bill.

Lawmakers weighing a Senate run who supported the legislation include Reps. Luke Messer (Ind.), Todd Rokita (Ind.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Ann Wagner (Mo.) and Pat Tiberi (Ohio).

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who’s considering challenging Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), authored an amendment that would add $8 billion over five years to help those with pre-existing conditions enter “high-risk pools,” a change that helped bring moderate Republicans on board but has been blasted by critics as far too little money to fund the pools.

Democrats immediately vowed revenge against the GOP lawmakers for their votes, with Democratic campaign groups issuing a slew of statements condemning the lawmakers and announcing ads targeting their home districts.

And Democratic lawmakers across the aisle quickly cast the vote as political suicide, waving goodbye and singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”

The scene was reminiscent of 1993, when GOP lawmakers waved goodbye to then-Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-N.Y.) after she changed her vote to back former President Bill Clinton’s budget. Margolies-Mezvinsky went on to lose her reelection bid.

“Make no mistake about it: every single House Republican bears the responsibility for this heartless legislation, and the passage of this bill will haunt them through Election Day,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.).

Election analysts are already warning about a grave path forward for House Republicans, who will lose the majority if 24 seats or more flip. 
The Cook Political Report called the vote both a “valuable candidate recruitment tool” for potential candidates and an albatross around the necks of vulnerable Republicans. The group moved three seats from lean-Republican to a toss-up, 11 seats from likely-Republican to lean-Republican, and six from solid-Republican to likely Republican. 
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the DCCC immediately blasted the vote as lawmakers selling out their constituents and announcing advertising against the party’s top targets. 

The DSCC bought YouTube ads targeting constituents of Republicans Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Dean Heller (Nev.), who will be faced with tough votes once the measure moves to the Senate. Heller quickly sent out a statement that he doesn’t support the House’s bill “in its current form,” claiming that the Senate’s version will be “different.”

And the DCCC launched Facebook and Instagram ads targeting 30 GOP members, including a handful who voted no on the bill. 

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) touted the bill’s passage in a memo while still acknowledging the members who defected. The House GOP campaign arm vowed to stand by all of its incumbents, regardless of how they voted.

“Though the NRCC certainly is grateful to those who supported the bill, we recognize that not all in our party did,” NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman wrote. “We constantly tell our candidates and members that, above all, they need to listen to and fit the districts they represent.

“No matter where they voted today, the NRCC supports our members and will be behind them 100 percent in 2018 as we continue to expand our Republican majority.”

After the bill’s passage, American Action Network (AAN), a political group aligned with House GOP leadership, launched a $2 million TV ad campaign thanking members in 21 districts for supporting the legislation.

The ads will run over the next two weeks and favorably highlights many of the vulnerable lawmakers up for reelection in 2018 including Denham, Valadao, Knight, Issa, Curbelo, Blum, Roskam, Yoder, Paulsen and Bacon. 

Tags Bill Clinton Dean Heller Debbie Stabenow Hillary Clinton Jeff Flake Kevin Yoder

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