Monday, March 27, 2017

Health bill's failure could leave some Republican lawmakers in political jams with rural voters

House Republican leaders' decision to pull down the bill to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a major defeat for President Trump in his first legislative showdown. But the fiasco in Washington is rippling through rural Republican districts back home, "where there are early signs of backlash against these lawmakers, including from constituents who voted Republican last November," Alexander Burns reports for the New York Times.

Republicans went to unusual lengths to support Mr. Trump's ultimately unpopular bill, and now have nothing to show for their trouble, Burns writes: "When they run for re-election next year, they may have to defend their support for a politically explosive bill that many Republicans backed only reluctantly, and that never came close to reaching the president’s desk."

Burns elaborates: "Many voters’ complaints echo the criticism they leveled against the passage of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare: that it was passed too quickly, with too many back-room deals and too much potential to destabilize the insurance system. Even voters supportive of Mr. Trump said the process had unfolded in a slapdash way, without sufficient attention to explaining the bill to people whom it might affect directly."

Congressman John Faso of New York state, who "negotiated a side deal for his state in exchange for backing Trump's bill," won some harsh reviews, Burns writes. "He had at first hesitated over the health-care proposal, which the Congressional Budget Office projected would lead to 24 million fewer people having health insurance over a decade. But Republican leaders pursuing Mr. Faso shifted the cost of Medicaid programs away from upstate counties like the ones he represents, and he backed the bill days before it fell apart."

Jim Palmatier, 62, told Burns he was disappointed to see his congressman horse-trading over a doomed bill: “He tried to be a little too clever, and he just ended up looking like a fool. There’s no way I’m voting for him next time around.” Many voters in other districts could probably be found to say likewise.

Burns reports, "National Republicans, still reeling from their unexpected defeat, expressed hope that health care might fade as an issue before the congressional elections in 2018. With more than a year and a half until voters next pass judgment on the Republican-controlled Congress, party leaders say they have plenty of time to record victories on issues like a tax code overhaul and infrastructure spending. Mr. Trump and Speaker Paul D. Ryan indicated on Friday that they did not intend to revisit health care in the near future." (Read more)

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