Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), who lost his seat in last week’s midterm elections, is coming under fire for a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he blames Republicans’ defeat at the ballot box on the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).
In the piece, titled “Who Lost the House? John McCain,” Lewis makes a novel argument: that McCain’s famous thumbs-down vote last year against a “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act doomed Republicans by making it more difficult for them to counter Democratic claims that GOP lawmakers would do away with protections for those with preexisting conditions.
The catch, of course, is that if Republicans had ultimately succeeded in their efforts to repeal the health-care law, they would have done just that.
“The Republican Party lost its House majority on July 28, 2017, when Sen. John McCain ended the party’s seven-year quest to repeal ObamaCare,” Lewis writes in the op-ed. “House leadership had done an admirable job herding cats. On the second try, we passed the American Health Care Act in May. Then McCain’s inscrutable vote against the Senate’s ‘skinny repeal’ killed the reform effort.”
He argues that McCain’s vote prompted a “green wave” of donations that Democrats and their allies used to fund ads hammering Republicans on preexisting conditions, which Lewis describes as “the Democrats’ most potent attack in the midterms.”
McCain died of brain cancer in August.
Lewis’s op-ed, like the arguments made by President Trump and other Republicans in the lead-up to last week’s election, ignores the fact that the 2010 health-care law passed with solely Democratic votes; it also neglects the eight years of votes, legal efforts and bureaucratic moves by Republicans to gut the law.
“This is abhorrent,” Meghan McCain, the senator’s daughter, said in a Monday morning tweet responding to the op-ed.
Lewis, who won election to the House in 2016 and was defeated last week by Democrat Angie Craig, has a history of incendiary remarks, particularly related to race and gender. In a 2012 appearance on his syndicated radio show, Lewis lamented that it was no longer acceptable to call women “sluts.”
He also argued that women who voted for President Barack Obama were “guided by emotion, not reason,” and mocked women who had been subjected to sexual harassment. Several of his controversial comments were resurfaced by CNN earlier this year.
Julie Tarallo, McCain’s former communications director, pointed to Lewis’s previous remarks in a Monday tweet in which she criticized the lawmaker’s op-ed.
“Absolutely disgraceful @WSJ ran an oped by defeated @RepJasonLewis blaming John McCain for R’s losing the House,” Tarallo said. “Things that contributed to Lewis losing his seat by 6 points: calling women ‘sluts’ & shaming sexual assault survivors. Things that DIDN’T contribute: John McCain.”
Other critics took issue with the fact that the op-ed was published on Veterans Day. McCain was a war hero who spent five years in captivity in Vietnam.
Eli Rosenberg contributed to this report.