OFF TO THE RACES

Republicans Weigh Their RyanCare Votes

House members in swing districts may get a primary challenge if they vote in favor. But a “no” vote would be a death sentence from the base.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
Charlie Cook
March 20, 2017, 8 p.m.

More than a few House Re­pub­lic­ans are likely to be tak­ing deep breaths as they board the sub­way from the Long­worth or Ray­burn House Of­fice Build­ings to the Cap­it­ol on Thursday to vote on the Amer­ic­an Health Care Act. They know that they will be cast­ing a fate­ful vote on a bill that no one really likes and, giv­en the lack of af­fec­tion for it in the Sen­ate, one that is ex­tremely un­likely to be signed in­to law in its present form.

Staunch con­ser­vat­ives don’t like it, some dis­miss­ing it as “Obama­care Lite,” while oth­er law­makers, mostly mod­er­ates or those rep­res­ent­ing swing dis­tricts, fear a back­lash if they de­cap­it­ate Obama­care. For Demo­crats, the vote is a no-brain­er. All are ex­pec­ted to vote against it. The irony, of course, is that the Amer­ic­an Health Care Act, aka Ry­an­Care, is, like the Af­ford­able Care Act of 2010, aka Obama­care, a mon­grel of a piece of le­gis­la­tion, with ex­traneous bits ad­ded to at­tract votes and oth­er pieces tossed in to avoid los­ing votes.

What’s in­ter­est­ing is that Amer­ic­ans have a de­cidedly mixed view of Obama­care. The March 12-14 Fox News Poll showed its fa­vor­able rat­ings only barely high­er than its un­fa­vor­able ones, 50 to 47 per­cent, and strongly un­fa­vor­able views ex­ceeded strongly fa­vor­able ones by 36 to 26 per­cent. When Fox asked people wheth­er they “fa­vor or op­pose the Re­pub­lic­an health care plan that would re­place Obama­care,” just 34 per­cent were in fa­vor and 54 per­cent were op­posed, with strongly un­fa­vor­able views out­strip­ping strongly un­fa­vor­able ones, 40-17 per­cent. Of the 54 per­cent op­posed to the GOP plan, 67 per­cent said it was be­cause it made too many changes to Obama­care, while 21 per­cent said it didn’t make enough changes.

The Fox News poll showed that 92 per­cent of re­gistered voters cur­rently have some kind of health in­sur­ance: 51 per­cent re­ceive it from their em­ploy­er, 15 per­cent pay for them­selves, and 27 per­cent re­ceive it through a gov­ern­ment pro­gram like Medi­care or Medi­caid. Thirty-five per­cent rated the qual­ity of their cur­rent health in­sur­ance “ex­cel­lent,” 42 per­cent “good,” 16 per­cent “only fair,” and 6 per­cent “poor.” That means 77 per­cent think their health in­sur­ance is good or ex­cel­lent and 22 per­cent rate it fair to poor.

Ry­an­Care faces the same pub­lic per­cep­tion prob­lem that af­flic­ted Obama­care sev­en years ago: People are deeply mis­trust­ful of politi­cians and gov­ern­ment fid­dling with their health care. Many didn’t much like it when Demo­crats made whole­sale changes, and they took out their frus­tra­tions in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elec­tions. Now they’re un­happy that Pres­id­ent Trump, House Speak­er Paul Ry­an, and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans are mess­ing with their health care. Demo­crat­ic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia told MS­N­BC last month that “a lot of people didn’t really know, and still don’t know, how they got health care … but I as­sure you they’ll know how they got rid of it.”

I can­vassed four of the smartest Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ants last week on this ques­tion: “What would you guess that un­named Re­pub­lic­an strategists are telling their cli­ents about health care votes next week, ac­know­ledging that every­one is in a dif­fer­ent situ­ation?”

One said he thought Re­pub­lic­ans were be­ing ad­vised to vote in fa­vor. “You will get no cred­it with I’s and D’s for op­pos­ing it; they will still vote against you in ‘18 re­gard­less of how you vote. At the same time, a ‘no’ vote guar­an­tees a GOP primary op­pon­ent. You are go­ing to be tied to Trump and his policies no mat­ter how of­ten you try to stay in­de­pend­ent. Bet­ter to suck it up and pre­pare for war with the Demo­crats in ‘18.”

An­oth­er took a sim­il­ar tack: “We have to re­peal Obama­care and re­place it. Not re­peal­ing will kill us with the base in 2018, and not re­pla­cing it will kill us with swing voters and low-propensity turnout Trump voters.”

Said a third: “I know strategists who worry about the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s repu­ta­tion as a whole are telling their cli­ents that we will look ut­terly im­pot­ent if we can’t come up with a re­place­ment for Obama­care after prom­ising to do so for the past six years.”

The fourth offered a more nu­anced an­swer: “Not many Re­pub­lic­ans are go­ing to worry about a primary op­pon­ent who hits them for hav­ing cut be­ne­fits from de­serving re­cip­i­ents. They’re go­ing to be more wor­ried about not do­ing enough to un­der­cut Obama­care—they need to worry about the ‘not con­ser­vat­ive enough’ angle on whatever it is they do.”

He con­tin­ued, “But if you’re in a swing dis­trict or state, you’ve got that prob­lem plus the prob­lem of a chal­lenge that you hurt mid- to low-in­come people and your vote cost them their health in­sur­ance. Then a ‘no’ vote would be easi­er than a ‘yes’ vote be­cause you can shift the reas­ons why you voted against it, say­ing in a primary that it was im­per­fect be­cause it did not do enough and in the gen­er­al be­cause it did too much.”

What We're Following See More »
WILL FOCUS ON FUNDRAISING
Katie Walsh Leaving White House for Political Role
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Trump's deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh is leaving her current position to work with political groups whose help the White House is seeking as it plows ahead with an ambitious agenda, two sources familiar with the move told the Washington Examiner." On the one hand, Walsh is said to be a master fundraiser. On the other, she's butted heads with many of her colleagues in the White House.

Source:
MODELED ON “GANG OF 14” DEAL
McCain Aims to Deal with Dems on Gorsuch
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. John McCain is looking to strike a deal with Senate Democrats that would confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, while preserving the right of the minority party to filibuster some nominations. McCain is trying to reprise the "Gang of 14" deal, which temporarily preserved the 60-vote threshold for lower-court nominees. This time around, "a deal would require eight Democrats to vote to advance the nomination in return for a promise that in the future they would be able to block a nominee in extraordinary circumstances." But McCain admitted he's not optimistic.

Source:
WOULD LET STATES DENY FUNDING
Pence Breaks Tie on Planned Parenthood Vote
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The GOP held open for more than an hour a vote on a measure that would "allow states to block federal family-planning funds to Planned Parenthood." Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is recovering from back surgery, was summoned to the floor to make the vote 50-50, after which Vice President Pence broke the tie in favor of the measure. Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were the lone Republicans to vote against it.

Source:
CONTRADICTS PRESIDENT
Ryan: I Won’t Work with Dems on Healthcare
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in an interview to be broadcast early Thursday said he does not want to work with Democrats on healthcare legislation, breaking with President Trump's recent comments."

Source:
WILL HE TRY TO PRIMARY THEM?
Trump Puts the Freedom Caucus in His Crosshairs
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login