Rep. Barbara Comstock was not saying Wednesday how she planned to vote on the big legislative question looming before Congress: the GOP plan to remake the Affordable Care Act.
And with good reason. The second-term Republican was in the hot seat — she is a lawmaker who represents a Northern Virginia district that voted for Hillary Clinton — but she is also an ally of Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the architect of the House bill.
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Republicans such as Comstock would face threats from the left in 2018 if they vote for the health-care overhaul and from within their own party if they vote against it.
“We think they may lose their seats if they vote for it, and Trump was threatening if they don’t vote for it they’ll lose their seats,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday.
For the bill to pass, Ryan can afford only 21 GOP defectors, and as of Thursday morning at least three Virginia Republicans and Maryland’s one Republican were firmly against the bill.
President Trump and Vice President Pence continued to press members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Wednesday, including Rep. Thomas Garrett, a freshman from central Virginia, who said he remained opposed to Ryan’s bill.
“House leadership, the White House and the band of dissenters are all on the same page of wanting to see the best product possible. We just disagree on what that best product possible is,” Garrett said in an interview.
He would like to see the House pass a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act with an enactment date, forcing lawmakers to come up with a compromise everyone can agree on.
“Right now the strategy treats the people who have been loyal to the team as enemies and those who have been disloyal as friends,” he said, referring to Republicans who voted for dozens of repeal votes in previous sessions.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), a moderate who may challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine next year, shocked many when he announced last week that he could not support the bill, and he maintained his opposition Wednesday, according to his office. He declined further comment.
Maryland’s only Republican member of Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, is also a ‘no’ vote.
“This legislation simply won’t lower premiums as much as the American people need, and lowering the cost of coverage is my primary goal as Congress and the administration work to repair the healthcare system,” Harris, an anesthesiologist and member of the Freedom Caucus, said in a statement.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) strongly opposed the bill. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), also in the Freedom Caucus, has not taken a public position.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the senior Republican in the Virginia delegation and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is a dependable “yes,” his spokeswoman said.
But these lawmakers come from heavily Republican districts, and their positions do not come at a political cost.
Only Comstock — and to a lesser extent Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.) — represent districts where a competitive Democrat could conceivably pose a threat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is officially targeting their districts.
The conservative group American Action Network, aligned with Ryan, is airing ads in Comstock’s district telling constituents to “thank her for fighting for a quality, affordable health care plan. Urge her to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act now,” and then flashes her image and phone number.
Taylor, a Virginia Beach freshman and former Navy SEAL, supports the bill.
“I believe 85 percent of something in the right direction is much better than nothing,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
An earlier version of this story misidentified House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer. This story has been updated.