Politics

Democrats Make Campaign Issue out of GOP Health Care Proposal

Three Democratic groups launched digital ads Wednesday

Democrats have launched digital ads attacking House Republicans, including New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, who’s behind the latest health care proposal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As soon as House Republicans started talking about another vote on a revised health care plan, Democrats began sharpening their knives.

Both Democratic campaign committees and Priorities USA Action, a major Democratic super PAC, released digital ads Wednesday that accuse Republicans of stripping coverage for Americans with preexisting conditions while exempting themselves.

[Lawmakers Predict GOP Health Care Plan Will Be Campaign Issue in 2018]

Regardless of whether a revised plan goes to a vote or whether specific members vote for such a plan, Democrats say they’ll be looking to tie Republican members to this effort. Democrats see several messages working in their favor here, especially with coverage for people with pre-existing conditions potentially at stake.

They’re eager to highlight previous statements from Republicans promising to not discriminate against Americans with preexisting conditions, which they think plays into a “broken promises” narrative. And a potential exemption for members of Congress, according to Democrats, only plays into what voters already dislike about Washington, D.C. 

“Republican lawmakers are so aware of the harmful consequences of these changes that they’ve carved out an exemption for themselves—and Priorities is committed to making sure voters know it,” Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement. 

The six-figure digital campaign from Priorities will run in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Arizona, all home to 2018 Senate races and some potentially competitive House races. In addition, the ads are running in Alaska and Maine, home to two moderate Republican senators. The votes of senators in those states “will be critical in deciding the fate of the Republican health care repeal plan,” Priorities said in a release. 

[Conservatives Begin to Accept Health Care Bill, Moderate Votes Unclear]

The messaging will be in pre-roll, social and search advertising, specifically targeting “voters who would be adversely affected by the proposed changes to the health care bill.” 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is re-upping the digital video ad it released in Mach, when House GOP leadership first pushed its health care plan. The DSCC is targeting women and older voters on Google search and Facebook in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida, West Virginia and Michigan.

Several GOP members of the House are considering challenging Democratic senators in 2018. 

“To every GOP Senate candidate and those who are still considering whether or not to run, our message is simple: you own this plan and voters will hold you accountable for your broken promises and reckless self-interest,” DSCC spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement. 

During the two-week April recess, the DSCC launched targeted Google search advertisements trying to tie GOP members who may run for Senate to a health care plan that, according to the ads, “raises costs and cuts coverage.”

At the House level, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a five-figure digital campaign Wednesday morning targeting 30 members who it sees as vulnerable in 2018.

The latest proposal, which would allow states to obtain waivers from certain federal mandates, comes from New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, co-chairman of the Tuesday Group. He's already a DCCC target in 2018, and the DCCC zeroed in on him Wednesday afternoon.

“Representative MacArthur is leading the charge to remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which will go down in infamy as one of the most heartless acts of this Republican Congress,” DCCC spokesman Evan Lukaske said.

MacArthur on several occasions Wednesday declined to answer reporters’ questions as aides rushed him off to various meetings. He defended the amendment in the few questions he did answer, saying that a D.C. exemption that was inserted for budgetary compliance reasons “would be fixed” and that the changes are designed to ensure protections from the current law Republicans have promised to maintain are not gutted.

Protecting preexisting conditions “was the whole point of this,” MacArthur said, noting his colleagues shouldn’t be concerned because that language was specifically put in the amendment.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.