Top House Dem: Backers of GOP’s health plan putting their seats at risk

Greg Nash
Republicans supporting the GOP’s ObamaCare replacement plan will pay a political price in 2018, Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) said Tuesday. 
Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said President Trump’s warning to Republicans that they may lose their seats if they oppose the bill is just one side of the GOP’s predicament: Lawmakers who do vote for it, Hoyer said, will be held responsible for any negative effects on coverage or the affordability of healthcare.
“We Democrats think that Republicans voting for this bill will put their seats at great risk. Not every Republican who votes for it, but many Republicans who vote for this bill are in seats that Hillary Clinton won,” Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol. 
“We think that they may lose their seats if they vote for it, and Trump is threatening that if they don’t vote for it, they’ll lose their seats.”
{mosads}Trump huddled with House Republicans in the Capitol Tuesday morning in an effort to persuade GOP skeptics to change course and support the bill, which is scheduled to hit the House floor on Thursday. 
In an unusual exchange, Trump called out Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, whose members largely oppose the proposal, with a warning of political repercussions if Meadows votes against the bill.  
“I’m coming after you,” Trump said.
The remark prompted laughter in the room, but in the eyes of Hoyer and the Democrats, Trump’s words were no joke. 
“That was a threat, not a wink and a nod,” Hoyer said. “He’s really threatening people. Trump likes to get his way. He likes to win. And if you’re not with him, you’re against him. There’s no gray area.”
“When Trump threatens people, he usually means it,” Hoyer added. “So I see no reason to believe that he was kidding. … He meant to send a message.”
Meadows, for his part, did not appear fazed by the exchange. After the meeting, he vowed to continue opposing the Republican bill, while predicting there would be enough similarly minded Republicans to sink the legislation.
If all House members are present on Thursday, GOP leaders would need 216 votes to pass the bill — a simple majority, taking into account the House’s several empty seats — meaning they could lose no more than 21 Republicans. 
Failure of the package would be an embarrassing setback for Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders, who have hammered ObamaCare since its inception in 2010 and promised to repeal it immediately if voters gave them a unified government — a gift they received in November. 
Democrats have been only too happy to highlight the GOP’s struggles, portraying the repeal-and-replace effort as a no-win scenario for the Republicans. 
“If Republicans vote for this phony-baloney sandwich that Trump is peddling, then they’re going to own it, and they’re going to own whatever happens to the … constituents they represent. Which is not really a great spot to be in,” Rep. Linda Sánchez (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday after a closed-door meeting of Democrats in the Capitol. 
Hoyer was quick to emphasize that he doesn’t view the Freedom Caucus members as allies, even in the current healthcare fight, because their opposition to the bill is for “vastly different reasons” than those of the Democrats. Indeed, the conservatives are attacking the GOP legislation with the argument that it’s merely a milder version of ObamaCare that grants the federal government too much power to steer the nation’s healthcare system. 
Hoyer declined to predict whether the bill will pass when it hits the floor on Thursday, but vowed there will be no Democratic support. If it does pass, he said, it will be “only because of the threats.” 
“It will not pass because 218 Republicans have a conviction that this is a good bill,” he said.
Hoyer also noted that recent changes to the Republicans’ bill — designed to win support in the House — will only make it harder for GOP leaders to pass the measure through the Senate, where some Republicans are voicing concerns that the House bill will eliminate coverage for their constituents.
Hoyer said it’s a dynamic that House GOP leaders are well aware of.
“I am absolutely positive — I haven’t talked to him; he hasn’t told me this — but I am as positive as I can be … that Speaker Ryan does not believe that this bill will pass the Senate,” Hoyer said.
Tags Hillary Clinton Paul Ryan

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