The American Health Care Act just passed the House by the smallest possible margin, barely getting the 217 votes needed to pass. And as the bill passed, House Democrats began singing and waving goodbye to their Republican counterparts.
It was a pretty remarkable act of trolling on the House floor, but one that illustrates just how divisive health care is as a political issue. Democrats are absolutely, positively sure that Thursday's vote will doom their more vulnerable Republican colleagues — and maybe then some. They accuse Republicans of rushing to pass the bill before it was scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and say the bill, if signed into law, would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.
Republicans counter that state exchanges are in big trouble, and the Affordable Care Act is in a “death spiral.”
But the bill they just voted for would disproportionately put red states (and pro-Trump areas) on the hook financially to find a way to insure the most vulnerable Americans, especially those with preexisting conditions.
Republicans didn't seem worried at all, though. Minutes before the vote, reporters spotted aides taking beer into the Capitol, presumably of the celebratory variety.
When Democrats began singing and waving goodbye Thursday, it was a sign that the health-care conversation is far from over. It's almost certain that Democrats will try to bludgeon every Republican running for reelection in 2018 for voting for the new law. And as of now, it seems that Democrats have polling on their side.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in April showed that 7 in 10 respondents support Obamacare's national mandate for coverage of preexisting conditions, while just 26 percent support the American Health Care Act's proposed system, which would let states decide whether to opt out of the mandate and instead provide potentially expensive high-risk pools for people who have preexisting conditions.
“This is the definition of a political train wreck,” predicted Tyler Law of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. House Democrats' campaign arm is preparing another round of paid media to whack 30 vulnerable Republicans, like Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), for voting for the legislation.
Democrats are basing their prediction on some pretty similar events: In 2010, voters had their first chance to weigh in on then-President Barack Obama's first few years in office, and the massive overhaul to health care that Democrats in Congress had just passed. They hated it. House Republicans netted an insane 63 seats in those midterm elections, and they haven't lost control of the House yet.
Four years later, Democrats up for reelection were still running from Obamacare: Vulnerable Senate Democrats tried to distance themselves from it, while Senate Republican candidates shot ads of themselves literally shooting the bill up. Republicans gained the Senate, too.
A 2012 study by the American Politics Research journal estimated that a lawmaker's vote for Obama's health-care law cost Democratic lawmakers 5.8 percentage points at the polls in 2010.
The AHCA isn't the law of the land yet, though — it still has to pass in the Senate before going to President Trump's desk.
Amber Phillips contributed to this report.