With a crucial vote on the GOP’s Obamacare replacement looming, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that Republican legislators who don’t support the bill would face electoral consequences. But opponents, including some prominent Republican senators, disagree — and public opinion polling, which is running strongly against the bill, is on their side.
“I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done,” said Trump after a Tuesday meeting with Republican legislators, according to multiple sources in the room. The president was on Capitol Hill to lobby for votes for the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s Obamacare replacement bill. The House plans to vote on the AHCA Thursday.
The top Republican in the Senate agreed with the president.
“I would hate to be a Republican whose vote prevented us from keeping the commitment we’ve made to the American people for almost 10 years now,” said McConnell in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday. The AP reported that McConnell seemed confident the bill would pass both houses.
“I think the American people would be deeply disappointed that we were prevented from keeping our commitment by Republicans who in the end, in effect, voted for the status quo.”
Trump and McConnell are focusing for now on the House, where Republicans from both ends of the caucus’s political spectrum have come out against the legislation. Many members of the conservative Freedom Caucus object that it keeps some features of Obamacare, while others — such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida — are opposed because it may lead to a loss of coverage for some constituents. Late Monday, Republicans released a series of proposed revisions meant to make the bill more palatable to both sides, although the concessions were directed mainly at the right.
A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 14 million Americans would lose coverage in 2018 if the Affordable Care Act were replaced by the AHCA. The legislation also would substantially raise premiums for older Americans while cutting taxes for the wealthy.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., disagrees with Trump and McConnell’s assessment. Cotton has been one of the most outspoken GOP critics of the AHCA, pointing to both its contents and the process Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has used to speed it through the house.
“I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year,” said Cotton during an interview with ABC News earlier this month. “I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve: Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.”
The bill as it currently stands faces long odds in the Senate, where Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky have already said they won’t vote for it. A number of other GOP senators have expressed concern with various aspects of the AHCA legislation but haven’t said how they would vote on its current iteration.
Trump and McConnell’s assertions also conflict with public polling on the AHCA. A Fox News poll earlier this month showed support for the bill at just 34 percent, with 54 percent against, which echoes a PPP poll in which the bill earned just 24 percent approval versus 49 percent disapproval. A recent Pew poll found support for government-ensured health care for all Americans at 60 percent, a high since the passage of Obamacare in 2010. Some have theorized that the unpopularity of the bill is dragging down Trump’s approval rating, which hit a low of 37 percent over the weekend.