The GOP’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill is dead for now, but attacks on congressional Republicans over the legislation are just getting started.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) on Monday launched a series of digital ads targeting more than a dozen electorally vulnerable GOP lawmakers.
Many of them represent districts that supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE for president in 2016, compounding the headache for these lawmakers who could find themselves tied to a deeply unpopular bill backed by a president whom many of their constituents opposed.
Repealing ObamaCare has been a central tenet of the Republican platform since 2010, with GOP lawmakers holding dozens of symbolic repeal votes even before they had a Republican president who could actually make it happen.
But once Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE won the White House, it became clear that repeal would loom large over Republicans whether or not a measure passed the House or ultimately became law.
Republicans are still reeling from the bill’s demise last week, and Democrats plan to capitalize on their opponents’ failure by keeping up pressure on lawmakers in both chambers ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
“I think you can count on Democrats to make sure that the American public is 100 percent aware that for seven years, the Republican Party had no plan to replace ObamaCare and they came up with one … in an incompetent, slapdash way … and it collapsed under its own weight,” said Joshua Karp, spokesman for Democratic super PAC American Bridge.
“We’re going to work very hard over the next year and a half to make sure no one forgets that.”
The campaign launched by the DCCC this week is relatively small, but it’s likely a harbinger of what’s to come, especially if it proves a successful attack.
The ad buy, worth at least $10,000, targets 14 vulnerable Republicans — eight from pro-Clinton districts — who voted to advance the American Health Care Act through several House committees. The digital spots will target swing voters age 35 and older.
“This targeted ad campaign makes clear that every House Republican who voted in committee for this devastating Republican repeal bill will be held accountable from now through Election Day,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján. “It’s critical that voters know where their representative stood on this legislation.”
Some of the targeted House members, such as centrist Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), said they wouldn’t support the bill in the final vote. But other vulnerable lawmakers like freshman Reps. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) and John Faso (R-N.Y.) said they planned to vote for it when the bill made it to the House floor.
The House bill met with resistance from several GOP factions. Moderates worried about Medicaid cuts and the elimination of minimum coverage requirements, while conservatives believed it didn’t go far enough and framed the proposed tax incentives that replaced ObamaCare’s subsidies as a new government entitlement.
Polling reflected unease among the public, too. Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll found that 56 percent of U.S. adults disapproved of the bill, with only 17 percent in favor of it. Meanwhile, ObamaCare’s approval rating has skyrocketed since Election Day and now has a strong positive favorability rating for the first time in its history.
The healthcare battle inspired protesters to flood GOP town halls across the country and energized a party still recovering from tough losses in 2016.
While vulnerable Republicans feel the heat now that the bill has been sunk, some acknowledged that their House majority could have been at risk if the bill passed.
“I feel like if we pass something, we own it,” Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), a top Democratic target not included in the latest DCCC ads, told The Hill last week before the vote. He planned to oppose it.
“Then, if people don’t see their premiums come down in 18 short months, I think the Republican majority could be gone.”
Most House Republicans never had the opportunity to cast a vote on the measure. The bill’s failure in the lower chamber means that Senate Republicans have avoided taking any votes on the legislation.
But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from also taking aim at vulnerable Senate Republicans — and GOP House members weighing their own bids for the upper chamber.
After the vote was canceled, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which launched its first 2018 ad focused on the bill, looked to tie all Republicans to the House legislation regardless if they had actually taken a position on it.
“To every Republican Senate candidate — and to those still weighing their decision whether to run or not — we have one message for you: You own this plan,” said DSCC spokesman David Bergstein.
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Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Nev.), the only Senate Republican running for reelection in a state Clinton won, opposed the bill over its Medicaid provisions. Nevada agreed to adopt the Medicaid expansion created by ObamaCare in 2014.
Indiana GOP Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, who are both considering bids against Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.), supported the bill. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who is mulling a run against Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.), voted for the bill in committee.
But not all potential Senate candidates have been supportive. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who faces a tough reelection race in Northern Virginia and is considered a possible Senate contender, came out in
Democrats have their own difficulties, however, with 10 incumbents running in states Trump carried.
Republicans stress that there’s still plenty of time for the party to revisit healthcare reform, but many concede that the party could face electoral consequences if no movement has been made by November 2018.
“In March of 2017, there’s still time, but if we’re going into Election Day without a replacement plan, there could be political fallout,” a GOP strategist said.
With the ObamaCare repeal effort on ice for now, Democrats are on the offensive. Trump has publicly placed blame for the bill’s failure on them, accusing the party of refusing to help craft legislation to improve the healthcare system. Other Republicans have echoed that sentiment and believe that Democrats will still be on the hook for ObamaCare come 2018.
“Every Democrat will still have to answer for ObamaCare and its failure to make healthcare more affordable,” said Jesse Hunt, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman.