Dems plot recess offensive on ObamaCare

Dems plot recess offensive on ObamaCare
© Getty Images

Democrats are using the new Congressional Budget Office analysis of legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare to go on the attack against Republicans over a critical one-week recess.

A recess packet sent to House Democrats encourages lawmakers to hold events highlighting the “terrible consequences” of the House Republican bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Meanwhile, advocates are coordinating events to hold House Republicans accountable for the bill they supported, and to pressure the Senate against doing the same.


“There’s a lot of energy here around the CBO score because it really is, I think, as bad as anyone thought in terms of hitting people with pre-existing conditions, hitting people who have employer-based coverage, 23 million uninsured,” said Igor Volsky, deputy director of the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Democrats are turning up the pressure as Senate Republicans begin drafting their own legislation on healthcare insurance.

Senators have been clear on one point — they won’t just take up the House’s healthcare legislation. But divisions have emerged, particularly over how to handle ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion and insurance regulations.

And while Democrats have yet to grab a congressional win over healthcare — they lost a special election in Montana on Thursday — they believe the GOP is vulnerable on the issue given polls showing unhappiness with the Republican bill.

The CBO report released Wednesday, which estimates that 23 million more Americans would become uninsured by 2026 under the House’s bill, gives Democrats more ammunition, they believe.

The nonpartisan scorekeepers predicted an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) would result in some sick people facing “extremely high” premiums and pricing some out of the market. This is because the amendment gives states the option to let insurers raise premiums based on individuals' health and stop covering a now-mandatory list of 10 categories of services such as maternity care and mental health treatment.

Members holding town halls next week will likely find themselves having to answer questions about the CBO score.

But few are actually having in-person town halls after many Republicans faced confrontational ones in the last few months. Only about seven House Republicans had announced town halls for next week as of Friday, according to Two GOP senators, Bill Cassidy (La.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley to hold drug pricing hearing Overnight Health Care: HHS chief refuses to testify on family separations | Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices | PhRMA spends record on lobbying in 2018 Congress should stop tariff power grab, bring balance to US trade policy MORE (Iowa), also have events next week.

MacArthur knows what it’s like to face angry voters. Last congressional recess, he held a nearly five-hour-long town hall where constituents called him an “idiot” and a “liar.”

MacArthur — who has bashed the CBO score as “factually inaccurate” — offered some advice to his colleagues: “I think lawmakers should focus on what we've done to fix the problem. ObamaCare is collapsing, premiums are skyrocketing, insurers are leaving — that is not a stable market.”

“What we should focus on is we're replacing it, we’re taking care of people with vulnerable conditions, and we're bringing down premiums for everyone else,” MacArthur told The Hill. “That's the message.”

Democratic lawmakers will hold town halls in Republican districts, an effort from progressive groups called “adopt-a-district.” Protect Our Care is organizing empty-chair town halls — with other healthcare officials and experts invited to speak because a lawmaker won't attend — in places such as Nevada, Maine, Ohio and Kansas.

Planned Parenthood, which stands to be defunded under the House bill, will also hold events in four cities over recess that mimic congressional hearings, a shot at Senate Republicans for not having hearings on the healthcare bill, in addition to empty-chair town halls, phone banks and canvassing programs.

In Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas, Planned Parenthood patients, providers and public health experts will hold hearings focusing on women’s health.

“The fact, these politicians are trying to take healthcare away from their constituents is shocking. They’re going to hear about it whether they’re hosting events or not,” said Graeme Erickson Joeck, federal campaigns director for Planned Parenthood.

“Planned Parenthood action and patient advocates are more fired up and enthusiastic to meet these members and tell them exactly how they feel about it and what’s at stake.”

Some advocates are planning to get creative. For example, in West Virginia, there will be a flip-flop giveaway targeting Rep. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyRepresenting patients’ voices Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearing MORE (R-W.Va.), who voted for the American Health Care Act.

Republicans will also face ads at home targeting them on the AHCA.

Priorities USA has an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy in nine states that Democrats are targeting in 2018, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Arizona.

The ads will also air in Alaska and Maine, home to GOP Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiNew momentum for Equal Rights Amendment Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE, respectively, who have both been outspoken about the House healthcare bill.

“The more Americans hear about their member of Congress voting for TrumpCare, the more they want to see them defeated next November,” Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement to The Hill Friday.

“Democrats must continue to pressure Republican lawmakers and communicate directly with voters on the devastating impact this healthcare bill would have on their lives.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is also running six-second, non-skippable YouTube ads targeting 12 Republicans who voted for the House bill: West Virginia Reps. Alex Mooney and McKinley, Indiana Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, Missouri Reps. Ann Wagner and Vicky Hartzler, Pennsylvania Reps. Mike Kelly and Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta MORE, Rep. Pat Tiberi (Ohio), Rep. Evan Jenkins (WV.), Rep. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.)

The ads will also target Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds Trump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 MORE (Nev.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (Ariz.), both up for reelection in 2018.

But a nonprofit allied with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAs new Congress begins, federal-state connections are as important as ever Trump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president MORE (R-Wis.) will provide cover for Republicans in 21 congressional districts with a $2 million nationwide ad campaign on the AHCA.

That brings American Action Network’s total spending on ads since the AHCA passed to more than $5.6 million.