Democratic congressional campaigns have already made health care an early focus of their 2020 messaging, and House Democrats bolstered that effort Wednesday with a symbolic vote that sought to once again put Republicans on record on the issue.
Eight Republicans sided with Democrats on the nonbinding resolution, which the House adopted, 240-186. The measure condemned the Trump administration’s support for invalidating the 2010 health care law in its entirety. The Department of Justice, in a new filing last week, backed a Texas judge’s decision to strike down the law.
Three Republicans — New York’s Tom Reed and John Katko and Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick — had voted in January to authorize the House general counsel to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the health care law. All three also voted for the resolution Wednesday.
One Democrat — 15-term Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson — bucked his party and voted against the resolution. He’s one of the last Democrats remaining in the House who opposed the 2010 health care law and is likely the last Democrat who can hold his heavily agricultural 7th District seat.
Democrats were otherwise united in supporting the resolution, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched positive Facebook ads touting their vulnerable members’ votes to “protect families with pre-existing conditions.”
Democrats made the Texas lawsuit a key element in their health care message last year. The party attacked GOP House and Senate candidates who had either signed on to the lawsuit — as some state attorneys general running for Senate had — or who refused to condemn it.
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During the 2018 cycle, Democrats attacked all congressional Republicans for efforts to repeal the 2010 health care law, even members who voted against those attempts on the floor. More than half of the 20 Republicans who opposed the 2017 GOP health care bill are no longer in Congress, with four of them losing to Democrats last November.
Democrats credit that health care message with helping them gain a net of 40 House seats. Texas Rep. Colin Allred, one of those freshman Democrats who defeated a longtime GOP incumbent last fall, introduced this week’s nonbinding resolution.
After last year’s losses, some Republicans have been worried about being on defense on health care again heading into 2020. Talk of a renewed effort to craft a GOP replacement plan worried some operatives who wanted to keep the focus on Democrats’ own debate over “Medicare for All.” But President Donald Trump’s suggestion Monday that the party would wait until after the 2020 elections to vote on a replacement plan alleviated some of those concerns.
Still, the renewed popularity of the 2010 health care law — especially the provisions about protecting people with pre-existing conditions — was enough for eight Republicans to support Wednesday’s resolution. One Republican — Ohio freshman Rep. Anthony Gonzalez — voted present. Gonzalez said in a statement that his vote was in protest of the symbolic vote.
Here are the Republicans who voted for the resolution:
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
Fitzpatrick, who also voted against the 2017 GOP effort to repeal much of the health care law, is a top target for Democrats in 2020. He is one of three remaining Republican lawmakers running for re-election in a district that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Clinton would have won his 1st District by 2 points if the new Pennsylvania congressional lines been in place that year.)
Fitzpatrick, who often touts his role in the Problem Solvers Caucus, was re-elected to a second term last fall by 3 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates his 2020 race Tilts Republican.
Rep. John Katko of New York
Katko also represents a district that backed Clinton in 2016. (The third GOP lawmaker in a Clinton seat, Texas Rep. Will Hurd, voted against the resolution Wednesday.) Katko won a third term to his Syracuse-anchored seat last fall, defeating activist and visiting professor Dana Balter by 5 points. Inside Elections rates his race Leans Republican.
Rep. Tom Reed of New York
Reed, a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, broke with his party on a handful of votes relating to the government shutdown at the start of the year. He told Roll Call after Wednesday’s vote that he was concerned about his party’s position on health care heading into 2020.
“Hopefully, maybe, this puts a marker down with our leadership and with the Republican Party in the House and Senate, as well as across the country, that we owe it to the American people to show in black and white how we’re going to fix health care,” he said.
The DCCC is not targeting Reed, who won re-election by 8 points in 2018.
Trump carried Reed’s district, which stretches along the border with Pennsylvania, by 15 points. Reed’s 2018 opponent, cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano, is running again. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.
Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia
The Virginia freshman, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, explained his vote partly as one to protect pre-existing conditions, which he said “hit close to home for me and I campaigned on continuing healthcare coverage for those affected.”
“The healthcare system is broken and Obamacare is a major part of the problem, but we should proceed with caution as we try and fix it. This resolution certainly doesn’t help solve the problem, but hopefully will allow us to have a productive discussion on healthcare,” he said in an emailed statement.
Trump carried Riggleman’s 5th District seat by 11 points in 2016. Riggleman defeated Democrat Leslie Cockburn by 7 points last fall in a race that got some national attention. Democrats are not targeting him in 2020. Inside Elections rates his race Solid Republican.
Rep. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey
Smith is the only remaining Republican representing New Jersey, after Democrats flipped four seats in the Garden State in the midterms. Smith voted against the GOP health care plan in 2017. He also broke with his party on the tax overhaul, along with other lawmakers from high-tax states. Smith is not a DCCC target and is running for re-election in a district Trump carried by 15 points in 2016. Inside Elections rates his race Solid Republican.
Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota
The freshman flipped a longtime Democratic seat in northeast Minnesota that Trump had carried by 16 points in 2016. It’s a largely white, working-class district, where Trump’s populist appeal resonated. The former Duluth police officer ran a campaign ad last year about his son Issac, who has Down syndrome, and he talked about the importance of insurance companies covering pre-existing conditions. Democrats are not targeting this seat in 2020. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Republican.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York
Stefanik has bucked her party and Trump on a number of occasions recently, including voting to block the president’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. In the last Congress, she supported the party’s effort to repeal much of the 2010 health care law but opposed the GOP tax overhaul. Stefanik is not listed as a DCCC target this cycle, and she won a third term last fall by 14 points. Inside Elections rates her re-election Solid Republican.
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
Upton is the former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and he was a key player in the party’s efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 law last Congress. Upton, whose suburban district Trump won by 8 points in 2016, is once again a Democratic target. He won a 17th term by less than 5 points last fall. Inside Elections rates his race Likely Republican.