The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Buyer’s remorse on the GOP health-care bill

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) questions Hillary Clinton during a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in Washington in 2015. ( Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Republicans on the Ways and Means and on the Energy and Commerce committees already have cast votes for the America Health Care Act. In the House Budget Committee, all but three Republicans moved the bill along. Strangely, those who supported it don’t seem all that keen about their votes.

We noted this week that Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) voted for the bill in Energy and Commerce with no Congressional Budget Office score. He’s from a Hillary Clinton district. Back home, his local paper reports:

Lance, a moderate Democrats believe will be vulnerable in 2018, told CNN he believes the House bill will fail in the Senate. Lance said he doesn’t want to support legislation that would be rejected by his Republican colleagues. “I do not want to vote on a bill that has no chance of passing over in the Senate,” Lance said. “The CBO score has modified the dynamics.”

His constituents will want to know why he voted for it without the CBO score in hand.

He is not alone. Now Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) is getting cold feet, his hometown paper reports:

Another local Republican who last week voted to advance the plan, Rep. Patrick Meehan of Delaware County, also expressed reservations Tuesday after a nonpartisan analysis predicted a sharp rise in the ranks of the uninsured if the bill passes. A spokesman said a new Congressional Budget Office analysis of the costs and benefits of the GOP plan “gives Rep. Meehan pause.”
“There are important reforms in this bill, but there are problems with it too,” a Meehan spokesman wrote in an email. “He’s going to be speaking with his colleagues this week to determine whether it’s prudent to move forward with the legislation and whether improvements to the bill can be made.”
Meehan had already expressed concern with the Medicaid provisions in the Republican proposal, even as he voted last week to move it through the Ways and Means Committee. But the CBO analysis has added to the mounting criticisms facing the bill from within the Republican Party.

Again maybe he shouldn’t have voted for something that turned out to be so devastating. Meehan’s district went narrowly for Clinton.

But there are party stalwarts like Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) who must be standing tall, right? Not according to Chicago media:

In an interview, Wheaton Republican Rep. Peter Roskam initially echoed Ryan in criticizing as incomplete a Congressional Budget Office finding that an estimated 24 million people would lose insurance coverage under the plan. Roskam voted for the plan just days ago in his position as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.
But then Roskam, who has been drawing substantial fire in his district for his stance on health insurance, said he’s glad to get “feedback” from the CBO and others, and called the overall plan “very much a work in progress,” subject to change.
While portions, such as the repeal of Obamacare taxes, are “solid,” others may need to be revised, Roskam suggested, particularly the section of the plan that, as now written, would convert Medicaid into a set block grant with capped spending.
“I want to learn more about the Medicaid piece, particularly in Illinois,” Roskam said. Asked twice later if that means he’s open to changes in the Medicaid provisions, Roskam replied “yes.”

He even cooked up a pathetic justification for his vote. “Roskam’s office notes that, as a member of Ways & Means, Roskam only technically voted to repeal Obamacare’s taxes. He hasn’t voted, yet, on Medicaid spending, which went to a different committee, though obviously the taxes Roskam voted to repeal went in part to pay for the Medicaid expansion.” C’mon. Does he think voters are going to buy that?

It’s remarkable how out of touch with their districts these lawmakers are and how willing they are to cast votes without the requisite information.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), whom we noted was in a tough spot since Florida colleague Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) came out against the bill also tried to claim his vote was “procedural.” Somehow I don’t think voters will see it that way. In any event, he suggested he might not vote for the very bill he voted for in committee when the AHCA hits the floor.

And then there is Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Col.) whose district went for Hillary Clinton by nine points. He hasn’t yet voted for it and now looking over his shoulder, according to the local NBC affiliate. He once said he’d support the bill. Now he’s changed his tune:

KUSA– Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) says he’s taking more time to review the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“Rep. Coffman is reviewing the [Congressional Budget Office] analysis to see what areas of the American Healthcare Act need adjustments before a final bill is enacted,” spokesman Daniel Bucheli wrote in an email to 9NEWS. “But he is encouraged that the bill leaves in place the consumer protections, such as preexisting conditions and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, and he believes the AHCA will face major changes before it’s signed into law.”

He tried to argue that when he previously said that “if I had vote today on the form that’s there, I would support it,” he was speaking hypothetically. Hmm. (Perhaps Sean Spicer has been giving tutorials?)  In any event, if he is now committed to vote against the bill he’d be a clear case of jumping ship due to the post-CBO backlash.

It’s not clear what House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is going to do to try to fix the bill, but frankly if he tries to appease the Freedom Caucus, he’s going to likely lose members like Coffman, Diaz-Balart, Lance, etc.

Other members are nervously watching local reaction and the effort by colleagues to run from their votes. The conclusion they may draw — if they have any political survival skills — is never to vote for this mess of a bill.