Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) on Friday said she would have voted against the American Health Care Act, breaking her silence on the measure hours before the bill was pulled from the floor.
Comstock, an ally of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, had been grappling with a dilemma: she campaigned for re-election to a second term on a pledge to revise the current health care law, but Hillary Clinton won her northern Virginia swing district by 10 points and her seat is being targeted by the national Democratic Party.
In a statement, Comstock said she liked parts of the bill, but could not support the final version, in part, because on the eve of the scheduled vote, Republicans stripped requirements for maternity care, mental health services and other basic benefits.
“While this bill addressed important principles like covering pre-existing conditions and not having lifetime limits imposed on the sick, and reducing costs and increasing choices for many working families, the uncertainties in the current version of the bill caused me not to be able to support it today,” she said.
Comstock said she appreciated the hundreds of people “from a variety of viewpoints” who shared their concerns and experiences with the health care system with her over the past few weeks.
She attacked the Affordable Care Act, saying it was in a “death spiral that Democrats refuse to acknowledge” and she expects providers to hike rates by double digits this year.
“This is unsustainable and I am still committed to a 21st century health care system that will help working families get better and more affordable health care. We can continue to work on reform initiatives,” she said, referring to two health care insurance bills that the House voted on this week.
Democrats assailed Comstock for not making her position known until just hours before the scheduled vote, when it appeared that the bill did not have the votes to pass.
She has declined constituents’ requests for an in-person town hall and did not attend a forum activists convened on their own in February. For weeks, her Capitol Hill and district offices have been flooded with phone calls from residents seeking more access to her.
Comstock revealed her plans to vote ‘no’ shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, just as activists from Planned Parenthood were wrapping up a protest in her district office about 30 miles away from the Capitol. They called on her to oppose the bill.
“The only people who deserve credit today are Barbara Comstock’s constituents who held town halls, even when she wouldn’t show her face in public, and who made their voices heard, even when her staff wouldn’t answer the phone,” Cole Leiter, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.
Dan Scandling, a longtime aide to Comstock’s predecessor and former boss, Republican congressman Frank R. Wolf, said Comstock could not agree to the bill after concessions were made to appease the hard-line Freedom Caucus.
“It became a bridge too far,” he said. “That’s not her district. That’s not the way the people of the 10th district think. There comes a point where governing is about compromise. You can’t just give away, give away, give away and not punch back.”
Comstock won a first term in 2014 by double-digits, but faced a tougher re-election challenge in November, with Trump at the top of her ticket. She won reelection by 6 points.
She represents a huge swath of northern Virginia that stretches from the Washington suburbs to the border with West Virginia, but most of her constituents live in Loudoun County were voters strongly supported Clinton.
The realities of Comstock’s district have forced complicated political calculations during Trump’s campaign and now his presidency. She waited until a month before Election Day to strongly denounce him and urge him to drop out of the race.
But she stood directly behind President Trump and next to Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump last month as the president signed a bill that Comstock sponsored calling on NASA to encourage women to pursue careers in science and engineering.
Three other Republicans in the Virginia congressional delegation planned to vote against the bill: Reps. Dave Brat and Tom Garrett, both members of the Freedom Caucus, as well as Rep. Rob. Wittman, who is considered a moderate but last week announced his opposition to the bill.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the senior Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Scott Taylor, a freshman from Virginia Beach, had consistently said they would have voted yes. Rep. Morgan Griffith, another Freedom Caucus member, did not reveal definitively how he would have vote.
“Obamacare has failed far to many in the 6th District of Virginia,” Goodlatte said in a floor speech. “The status quo cannot continue.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, responded that the bill would have resulted in 56,100 people from Goodlatte’s district losing health care.
Shortly after that, Republicans withdrew the bill from the floor.