King opposes House GOP health care plan; Blum and Young non-committal

U.S. Representative Steve King confirmed this morning that he opposes the House Republican health care replacement bill released on Monday. Like several influential conservative groups that condemned the American Health Care Act earlier this week, King believes the legislation does not go far enough. He told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “We campaigned on the full, 100 percent, I say ‘rip it out by the roots’ repeal of Obamacare, and we don’t get that with this bill.”

Full video of King’s March 9 interview on CNN:

King has been one of the most vocal House Republicans on repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, so it’s no surprise he is not satisfied with a proposal that preserves Medicaid expansion until 2020 and maintains other “key features of Obamacare.” King told Cuomo that “at a minimum,” the House should pass a repeal similar to the bill President Barack Obama vetoed last year. He also called for eliminating the refundable tax credits and a “dozen or so mandates” the Republican bill contains.

Cuomo asked King about the rushed process. Only two days after the bill’s release, the Ways and Means Committee started working on the American Health Care Act, despite the lack of a Congressional Budget Office estimate of its costs. (Early this morning, following 18 hours of deliberations, the committee voted to approve the bill.)

King told CNN he would have rather seen the proposal out for a week to ten days before it went to committee for markup, to give House members time to digest it and draft amendments.

No House Democrats are likely to vote for the bill some have dubbed “Trumpcare” or “Republicare,” because it would cause millions to lose their coverage and make insurance unaffordable for millions more, especially older people. The plan would also shift huge Medicaid costs onto states.

Without Democratic support, House leaders can afford to lose only 22 Republicans–21 if you count King as a no vote.

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) belongs to the House Freedom Caucus. Two of its best-known members, Representatives Jim Jordan and Justin Amash, have already denounced the GOP health care bill on grounds similar to King’s comments today. Amash considers the bill “Obamacare 2.0,” while Jordan says refundable tax credits to help cover insurance costs would be “a new entitlement.”

So far, Blum has avoided taking a stand on Trumpcare. Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times quoted him yesterday as saying, “I’m going to read the bill and do my homework.”

Blum has good reason to avoid angering House leaders. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $1,579,996 defending his seat during the 2016 election cycle. Iowa’s first district will again be a top target for Democrats in 2018. Although Blum is wealthy and has put quite a bit of his own money into previous campaigns, he may not have the means to fund a re-election bid without substantial help from his party.

Representative David Young (IA-03) has not made any public statements about the GOP health care plan. Today one of his staffers told me Young will read the entire bill before making a decision. I see Young as almost certain to support the proposal; he generally votes the way leadership wants and also relied heavily on support from the NRCC during his 2016 re-election campaign.

Moreover, Young was a longtime chief of staff for Senator Chuck Grassley. Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble yesterday, Iowa’s senior senator said this proposal may be the GOP’s only chance to act on health care reform: “We’ve been promising people for 6 years we’re going to do something about it.” He added, “If we fail, then all we can do is say ‘we Republicans had promised it, we weren’t able to deliver on our promises’…” Grassley also warned that 40 Republicans in the House and three or four in the Senate “might be putting the whole Republican campaign over the last 6 years in jeopardy.”

Speaking of which, Trumpcare in its current form looks doomed in the upper chamber. At least one key provision appears to require 60 votes in the Senate, which it will never receive. But even if Republicans could enact the whole health care bill using the “reconciliation” process, which requires only 51 votes, they can’t afford to lose more than two GOP senators. Three Republicans (Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Tom Cotton) say the bill isn’t conservative enough. Four other GOP senators (Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, Cory Gardner, and Lisa Murkowski) said on Monday, “We will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states.” Furthermore, the GOP plan “defunds Planned Parenthood and restricts abortion coverage”; in the past, Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins have opposed health care bills that cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Iowa’s other Senator Joni Ernst hasn’t taken a public position on the latest GOP health care proposal. In his March 8 story, Tibbetts quoted a spokesperson as saying, “Senator Ernst is currently reviewing the bill.”

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Iowans communicating with Republican members of Congress should particularly press them on how the GOP bill would make out-of-pocket health insurance costs skyrocket for older people, a large and growing demographic in our state.

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