Republicans Face Health Care Blowback At Town Halls
Less than a week after narrowly voting to pass the American Health Care Act, Republican Members of Congress are spending a week or so back in their respective districts and facing townhalls with constituents who are not very happy about what they did:
United States representatives often hold town halls with constituents in their home districts during a congressional recess. But this week, with the House on a break, few of the 217 Republicans who approved legislation to repeal and replace critical parts of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, chose to defend their votes at public meetings.
Those who did were, in several cases, greeted by shouts and criticism.
The representatives who have not hosted gatherings in their home districts have not been immune from backlash, however. Protesters have rallied outside congressional offices and confronted representatives at events. Liberal critics say they intend to keep the heat on as the bill is debated in the Senate.
A party that controls the House avoiding constituents upset about health care legislation? You might have heard this one before.
The Republicans’ current situation is similar to that of Democrats in 2009 and 2010, when they controlled the House and faced opposition to health care legislation. Then, like now, the few town halls that were held were marked by voter rage.
This time around, instead of Republicans lamenting the passage of Obamacare, Democrats are lamenting the House passage of its replacement, the American Health Care Act. Several of the Republican representatives who have held events since the vote on Thursday have said they appreciated the opportunity to explain their decision, but the raucous reception they have endured shows the political risk they still face.
The rest of the article consists of highlights from town halls conducted by three members of Congress including Raul Labrador of Idaho, who made national news when he said at a town hall this week that “nobody dies because of lack of access to health care,” a claim that Politifact rated as “Pants On Fire” untrue. The other Members of Congress profiled are Congressman Tom Reed of New York, who faced a largely hostile crowd at his recent town hall, Rod Blum of Iowa, who made national news when he walked out of an interview with local media when he was asked about allegations that his staff was prescreening the crowd as his town hall to keep out people angry about his vote on the AHCA, and Greg Walden of Oregon, who faced an angry crowd when he could answer a question about how many people could lose insurance coverage if the AHCA became law. AOL News chronicles similar receptions faced by other Republicans across the country finding constituents who are upset because they believe that the proposed law would adversely impact them when it comes to the ability to afford health care and health care coverage. These anecdotes follow other reports of similar receptions greeting Republicans across the country as they head home to defend a vote that, thanks to the Senate, may end up not really mattering very much.
This isn’t the first time that Republican Congressmen have faced hostile crowds over the issue of health care when they get back to their districts. Back in February, well before the first version of the AHCA had even been released in full and the details of what the GOP was working on were just starting to leak out of Congress, dozens of Republicans House members faced hostile crowds who were questioning them on their stance on the then-pending Republican health care bill. In that case, of course, there had not even been a vote on a bill and many members of Congress had not even taken a position on the pending legislation. Now that they’ve voted and all but twenty members of the House GOP Caucus have voted for it, they will be required to defend their vote regardless of what happens in the Senate. If these vignettes provide by the Times are any indication, they’re like to face hostile crowds in many locations.
The big question, of course, is what impact all of this may have on the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats are obviously hoping that all of this will break in their favor and that they’ll end up gaining seats and perhaps even gaining control of the House, albeit by what would likely be a narrow margin. It is true that in the wake of the House vote last week analysts such as those at the Cook Report changed their rating on a number of House races that are now rated as being more competitive than they were before the vote. Additionally, Nate Silver posted a piece noting that the AHCA vote could end up being a “job killer” for House Republicans. Finally, of course, history teaches us that the first midterm that a new President faces is typically one where his party loses at least some seats in the House. The only recent exception to that rule is the 2002 midterm elections when Republicans actually gained seats even while controlling the White House. In that case, though, everyone seemed to agree at the time that the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and the President’s still-strong popularity at the time played a large role there. So, the Democrats are likely to gain at least a few seats next year. At the moment, though, it’s still far too early to say that this means they’ll gain control of the House. That would require a net gain of about 23 seats, which would mean a performance somewhere between the successes they had in the elections of 2006 and 2008. At this point, it’s still far too early to predict just how likely that is. If the Trump Administration continues the way it has been proceeding for the past 111 days, though, then I suppose anything is possible.