It was easy for NJ Republicans to oppose the Affordable Care Act when they were out of power. Now that they have “caught the car,” they are finding it hard to “repeal and replace” it. There is growing pressure from constituents to vote against the Ryan plan which Trump supports. In Trumpian language this bill (H.R. 1275) is officially called “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017”. As laughable as that sounds, we must take it seriously and increase our protests.
Actually Ryan’s bill is not a repeal: it is as its text indicates an amendment of the ACA. Many conservative Republicans oppose it because they want a true repeal. Other Republicans in swing districts and those won by Hillary Clinton are becoming alarmed by protests of their constituents.
These protests must continue as the margin for a Republican victory is slim. Assuming all Democrats vote against the legislation, GOP leaders cannot afford more than 21 defections in the House and two in the Senate. According to the Hill there are eight representatives who now appear certain to vote against it, and 15 who are uncertain or unclear.
NJ REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS
- Frank LoBiondo (CD2): He is facing pressure from protests. Keep it up. He previously advocated repealing the legislation. In early March he said he would not vote to repeal the ACA without a replacement ready to go. “Republicans have talked in generalities… We’ve been promised that there will be a replacement without people getting kicked to the curb.” He has been holding small meetings with concerned citizens. He is vulnerable in a district with lots of Democrats.
- Tom MacArthur (CD3): The Hill lists him as one of the 15 representatives who are “unclear or uncertain.” He was NJ’s sole Republican who voted in January against the budget resolution that began the process of repealing of the ACA. On March 7 he said, “I favor part of Obamacare.” Keep after him.
- Chris Smith (CD4): He hasn’t held a town hall in 25 years. In late February aide Jeff Sagnip said Smith “personally told activists over ten days ago that he would not attend a partisan event disguised as a town hall, as Smith has no intention of subjecting his constituents to the animosity and hostility that has been directed at him and his staff.” Smith says, “it remains to be seen if the “replace” part of that equation will be adequate to meet the healthcare needs of the people of NJ4.” You can call, write or visit his district office. He needs to hear from you.
- Leonard Lance (CD7): “I campaigned on repeal and replacement and I won.” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Thursday faced off with him over why they’re “rushing so fast” on the Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan. Lance highlighted the committee’s 27-hour marathon session. Hayes countered that he means hearings with expert witnesses that can be brought in. With such significant legislation, he asked Lance if he really thinks those 27 hours are sufficient. On March 9 as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee he voted to approve the bill, and he said, “The average American family is now paying $5,000 dollars more a year for health care since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Too many of my constituents can’t afford the Affordable Care Act.” There was protest scheduled this morning in Flemington. More might turn the trick.
- Rodney Frelinghuysen (CD11): Tom Moran says about him, ‘Once he was a moderate member of Congress who might be expected to tap the brakes. But since the Tea Party revolt in 2010, he has shifted to the right on everything from guns to Planned Parenthood, and now he is playing the role of a loyal soldier to Trump. Instead of holding a Town Hall meeting he has opted instead to engage with the public in a little-publicized.telephone town halll. He is vulnerable in a district with moderate Republicans and plenty of Democrats.
It is expected that NJ Democrats will vote against the bill. However, there is some uncertainty regarding Josh Gottheimer (CD 5) who has occasionally supported Republican legislation. Earlier on he stated he would not vote to repeal it unless there was a replacement. Now there is a replacement, but his position remains unclear. He recently expressed his willingness to work across the aisle to fix the Affordable Care Act while ensuring that any replacement plan addresses his critical priorities like allowing those with preexisting conditions to access care and keeping prescription drug costs low for seniors. On March 6 he drew a small red line, urging congressional leaders not to raise prescription drug costs by reopening the Medicare Part D “Donut Hole”.
It’s passage in the Senate is even more problematic. Senator Tom Cotton (R), generally viewed as a Trump ally, tweeted Thursday morning, “House health-care bill can’t pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast,”
If at first the Republicans don’t succeed they will try again. These protests are incredibly important because if legislators start over or make changes in their current version they could lean more to the far right to get those conservative votes or lean more to the left with reasonable modifications. Hence we must keep up the pressure on all our Republicans legislators.