Why 3 House Republicans Voted Against Repealing Obamacare (Updated)
Updated 7:27 p.m. | House Republican leaders gave their freshmen members a political gift Tuesday: The chance to vote “yes” on a symbolic bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
For three new Republican representatives, however, the repeal vote was an opportunity to vote “no.” Republicans Bruce Poliquin of Maine, John Katko of New York and Robert Dold of Illinois were the lone three defections in either party on what’s being billed as the chamber’s 56th vote since 2011 to undo parts of the 2010 health law.
The defectors’ rationale? They might hate Obamacare, but Republicans still haven’t put forward a legislative proposal that would act as a substitute in the event the law ever got repealed.
“I am against Obamacare. It is hurting jobs, hurting our families, limiting choices,” Poliquin told CQ Roll Call as he left the House floor Wednesday afternoon. “But I need to see a tangible, free-market replacement and this bill does not give us that. I need to see how we’re gonna fix this and not just be someone who votes for the 56th time to repeal this.
“Show me a fix,” Poliquin said, “and you’ll have my support.”
Katko went to Facebook to explain his “no” vote: “I am disappointed that the bill taken up by Congress today did not provide a real solution to the rising costs of healthcare, but I will continue to fight for comprehensive, bipartisan healthcare reform for Central New York in Congress.”
He added that a campaign promise was to vote against Obamacare repeal votes that did not also include a replacement.
Dold issued a statement.
“The people of the 10th District sent me to Congress to advance solutions, not sound bites, to the problems we face,” said Dold, who was first elected in 2010 before losing in 2012 and recapturing his seat in 2014.
He continued, “Casting yet another symbolic vote for full repeal of the law, without any replacement legislation, simply distracts us from the work that must be done to drive costs down, restore access to care and make healthcare work for everyone.”
While their personal explanations might be compelling, there could also be political reasons behind their votes.
All three Republican defectors come from districts that lean Democratic in presidential years. President Barack Obama carried those three districts by an average of 14 points in 2012 — meaning all three will be top Democratic targets in November 2016.
Democrats are already recruiting challengers to Poliquin and Dold, with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Josh Schwerin quick on Tuesday to issue a statement slamming their votes as opportunistic.
“Congressmen Dold and Poliquin appear to be hoping voters will forget their original pandering on healthcare,” said Schwerin. “As we get closer to Election Day, we will see more and more of these chameleon votes but voters won’t be fooled and we will be consistently reminding them about where these lawmakers really stand.”
Indeed, Poliquin filled out a “Campaign for Liberty” questionnaire last year in which he pledged to “support and cast every vote for legislation that will repeal or defund ObamaCare,” while Dold, in his first stint in the House, voted multiple times on health law repeal bills and amendments. Poliquin won an open-seat race to replace former Rep. Michael H. Michaud, the longtime Democratic member who ran a failed campaign for governor in the Pine Tree State. Poliquin defeated state Sen. Emily Cain by a 5-point margin, and the DCCC is working to convince Cain on a rematch.
Dold represents a suburban Chicago district that voted for Obama by a 16-point margin in 2012. He won a rematch with former Rep. Brad Schneider by a 4-point margin in 2014. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is seeking to recruit Schneider to run again in 2016.
Meanwhile, Katko defeated former Rep. Dan Maffei by a stunning 20-point margin in the Syracuse, N.Y.-based 24th District. However, the 24th District voted for Obama by a 16-point margin.
Regardless, Poliquin, Katko and Dold could soon have the opportunity to cast a vote for something more tangible.
In advance of a Supreme Court ruling in June that Republicans hope could cripple the health law, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., just last week appointed three House GOP committee chairmen — Paul D. Ryan of Ways and Means, John Kline of Education and the Workforce and Fred Upton of Energy and Commerce — to run a working group to come up with a comprehensive alternative.
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