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Opinion Republicans are running from the AHCA

What Senate Republicans are saying about the American Health Care Act (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Some more literally and clumsily than others, Republican lawmakers are running from the House-passed American Health Care Act. Back home, Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) ran away from questioning about the AHCA, Newsweek reports: “On Monday afternoon, the staunchly conservative Republican and member of the House Freedom Caucus fled an interview with Josh Scheinblum, a reporter with TV9 in Dubuque, after Scheinblum had the temerity to ask Blum a series of difficult questions.”

Asked why he wanted to exclude those from outside his district from a town hall, Blum got testy:

“I don’t represent all Iowans,” Blum countered, still smiling but with a newfound edge to his voice. “I represent the First District of Iowa. That’d be like saying, shouldn’t I be able to, even if I live in Dubuque, go vote in Iowa City during the election because I’d like to vote in that district instead?”
A child behind Blum offered a charming grin, likely unrelated to the healthcare debate. [Local reporter Josh] Scheinblum then posed the following question: “Would you still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?”
At this point, Blum rose and began to pull off the microphone attached to his gray pullover sweater.
“This is ridiculous,” a visibly agitated Blum declared as he prepared to leave. “He’s just gonna sit here and just, just badger me.”

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that his town hall didn’t go much better:

Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, met a hostile crowd Monday night in his hometown while fielding questions on topics ranging from health care and immigration to school vouchers and climate change.
He took the podium to a mix of cheers, boos and applause from a crowd of about 1,000 at Dubuque Senior High School. After an introductory statement, Blum took questions from crowd members selected at random during the town hall event.
The two-term incumbent faced regular interruptions from shouted questions, stomping feet and boos when delivering answers in support of last week’s U.S. House bill repealing and replacing major provisions of the federal health care law known as Obamacare. Blum voted in favor of the bill.

Even before his vote, Blum was one of the Republicans at risk in 2018. He may be even more vulnerable than initial ratings projected after Monday’s meltdown.

By contrast, Republican senators are carefully pivoting from the terms of a bill that they know is without policy or political merit. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), just reelected in Ohio by a huge margin, told Fox News, “I think we can do better by taking what the House has passed, improving it in certain ways, being sure we aren’t pulling the rug out from under people who are currently getting coverage and at the end of the day, over time begin to see these premiums and these co-pays and deductibles level off and not continue to rise.” Obviously, the Trumpcare bill doesn’t help matters. Portman added: “This is the biggest problem we have really in our economy, too. Wages are flat and yet expenses are up and the number one increased cost is healthcare.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is painting quite a contrast with the feverish, irresponsible process the House went through. “This process will not be quick or simple or easy, but it must be done,” he said on Monday.

So why was it then that the House felt so compelled to throw together a bill with no Congressional Budget Office scoring, no robust debate, no hearings and no participation by Democrats? House leadership obviously made a political calculation — pass an indefensible bill and then lie about it. That’s not an option for the Senate, which will be expected to pass something that works. Judging by what Blum encountered, the House approach isn’t working — even on political terms.