newest news - Southern California Republicans face a dilemma on health care vote

Southern California Republicans face a dilemma on health care vote


Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach, plans to vote in favor of the American Health Care Act.
Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach, plans to vote in favor of the American Health Care Act.

The American Health Care Act could prove hazardous to the political well-being of Southern California’s House Republicans.

GOP members of Congress who vote for the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, may end up energizing opposition groups and providing a talking point for Democrats determined to oust them.

But if they vote “no” and the GOP effort fails, Republicans in Congress could embarrass their party and party leaders. For years, Republicans have sought to dismantle Obamacare. Now that their party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress, this seems to be their best chance. A vote is expected Thursday, March 23.

“I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done,” President Donald Trump warned House Republicans this week.

“The prospect of a primary challenge looms large. That’s sobering because Trump supporters are zealous and Trump is vindictive,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

“If they support the bill, they will alienate many of those who are not Trump supporters. Public opposition to the bill is likely to grow as more people learn about its effects.”

Democrats plan to make Republican ‘yes’ votes a campaign issue.

“They can either stand with the people who sent them to Washington, D.C., and protect health care for the sick and vulnerable and those who need it most, or we will hold them accountable on Election Day,” California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said in a statement.

Tables turned

The quandary facing Republicans is similar to the dilemma Democrats wrestled with prior to the Affordable Care Act’s passage in 2010. The GOP capitalized on the public backlash against Obamacare to pick up 63 seats and seize control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections.

The GOP plan, referred to as “Trumpcare” or “Ryancare” after House Speaker Paul Ryan, continues some Obamacare provisions, such as barring insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

The plan replaces income-based tax credits to make insurance affordable with credits based on age. Instead of a financial penalty for not having health insurance, the GOP bill allows for 30 percent surcharges on those who let their coverage lapse for more than 63 days.

Also, the bill caps federal funding to states for Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor.  Enhanced funding for states expanding Medicaid coverage, such as California, would be phased out.


The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that 18 million Americans would lose health coverage under the bill next year. As many as 24 million people could lose insurance by 2026. The Medicaid changes would cut $880 million from the program from 2017 to 2026, according to the CBO.

The bill has been condemned by liberals who say it will cause people to die for lack of insurance and rejected by conservatives who see it as Obamacare under a different name. Public support for the bill measured by a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll fell from 46 percent March 9 to 13 to 40 percent from March 16 to 19.

Even if it passes the House, the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. A number of GOP senators have said the legislation can’t pass their chamber without significant changes.

OC squeeze

With Democrats united against the bill, no more than 21 Republicans can vote no for the legislation to pass the House. More than 25 Republicans in the conservative House Freedom Caucus oppose the bill, according to Wednesday news reports.

Orange County’s four Republican members of Congress are particularly feeling pressure to vote against the bill. All four saw their district’s voters favor Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November – four of just 23 GOP-held districts preferring Clinton nationwide.

The OC Republicans have been targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has already provided funding for organizers in two of those districts. And they have seen anti-Trump demonstrators rally at their offices weekly.

The sole unequivocal supporter in the Orange County delegation is second-term Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach, who voted for an earlier version as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

She has been targeted by newspaper and internet ads funded by the anti-Trump group, “Working Americans for Affordable Health Care.”

In an email Wednesday, Walters said: “The AHCA is a rare opportunity to provide Americans access to the low cost, high quality, patient-centered health care that they deserve. This bill will lead to lower premiums, greater choice in coverage options and large reductions in the federal deficit.  Such major entitlement reform does right by Americans from all walks of life and delivers the type of change demanded by my constituents.” 

Also expected to support the measure is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.

“One consideration is that he wants assurances that illegal immigrants will not have access to tax-supported healthcare,” said Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs. He also noted that his boss “is concerned that the Republican opposition, many of them comparatively new to Congress, haven’t learned that the perfect is often the enemy of the good.”

Grubbs said that phone calls to the congressman’s offices are overwhelmingly opposed to the GOP plan, estimating the tally was “2,000 against, five in favor.”

“But we recognize such tallies are strongly influenced by mobilized campaigns and are therefore unreliable,” he said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, won re-election by a razor-thin 0.7 percentage points in a district that straddles the Orange-San Diego county line and is considered one the most vulnerable House members in the 2018 election.

He’s getting pressure not only from those who prefer the existing health care plan but also from the conservative Club for Growth. The free-market advocacy group complains the GOP plan doesn’t go far enough and has targeted Issa as one of 10 Republicans they’re pushing to vote against the plan.

Issa said last week that the reform wasn’t in a plan he could support, but subsequently said the amendments this week addressed some of his concerns. CNN reported that he said he was “leaning yes,” but Issa spokesman Calvin Moore subsequently said that the congressman continued to have reservations and remained undecided.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, also was undecided.

“I remain concerned about the rising cost of healthcare for Southern Californians and am listening to the feedback I’ve received from my constituents on this bill,” Royce said in an email.

Among other Southern California members of Congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, also has been targeted in ads funded by “Working Americans for Affordable Health Care.” Hunter supports the bill.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, plans to support the bill in its current form.

“The American Health Care Act lays the groundwork for delivering the free-market, competitive health care system Americans deserve by replacing a government-mandated system with patient-focused health care plans that people actually want to buy,” he said in an emailed statement.

Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, represents a district spanning Los Angeles and Ventura counties in which Democrats have a narrow voter registration advantage. He also is on the Democrats’ target list for 2018.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Knight said: “The future of our nation’s healthcare is extremely important and warrants thorough examination and discussion, which is why we will continue to carefully review the recent proposed changes to the bill and discuss its impacts with members of our community.”

Asked to clarify Wednesday morning, a Knight spokesman said the congressman “does not have a position on the bill at this point.”


Not all Southern California House Republicans are firmly behind the American Health Care Act that was scheduled for a vote Thursday, March 23.

Here’s a look at where they stood as of midday Wednesday.


Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine.

Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach.


Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.


Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista.

Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton.


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