WASHINGTON — There was drama before the House health care roll call over how the GOP holdouts would vote, with three of the undecided Republicans on Thursday morning from Illinois, Reps. Randy Hultgren, Peter Roskam, and Adam Kinzinger.
They all voted “yes.”
In the very end, they really did not have any other viable political option.
The Republican-drafted legislation was approved on a 217-213 roll call. Republicans needed 216 votes to pass.
Neither Roskam nor Hultgren nor Kinzinger wanted to be the guy who killed the Trumpcare bill. Anyway, they all have criticized Obamacare in the past, so this “yes” vote was not an ideological leap.
Given the razor-thin margin House Speaker Paul Ryan had to work with, if Roskam or Hultgren or Kinzinger were blamed for a loss, they would have been punished by their House GOP leaders — and President Donald Trump would have found himself a new public enemy to taunt.
Their reactions about the vote reflected the tightrope they were walking.
“I struggled with it,” Hultgren told the Chicago Sun-Times as he was about to vote, noting that the GOP health insurance overhaul is a work-in-progress. “Let’s see what the Senate does.”
Kinzinger said in a statement, “This legislation has several steps to go before it becomes law and we have many improvements to make. But today, I acted to move this healthcare reform forward to make real progress for my constituents and our country.”
“I think it was a good pathway forward, because the status quo is not sustainable,” Roskam told the Sun-Times after the vote.
Democrats have been trying to soften up Roskam because Hillary Clinton won his west suburban district in 2016 and they see an opening, even if they haven’t recruited any big-name contender. Still, Roskam was not looking to be a Democratic hero and join the 20 Republicans who crossed the aisle to side with the Dems.
Roskam has always been an Obamacare foe. It just did not make political sense for him to be out front in these past weeks, what with Democrats laying in wait for him to do some town halls so they could video him getting grilled by people nervous about whether their health insurance alternatives were going to change for the worse.
By keeping out of the Trumpcare fray, Roskam saved himself considerable political aggravation by not being dragged into a debate over a bill that may never even get a vote in the Senate.
Moreover, Roskam has aspired to GOP leadership, and this Thursday was a test of party loyalty.
A TRUMP WIN . . . FOR NOW
Trump scored the legislative win he craved, even as the fate of Trumpcare in the Senate is uncertain and possible GOP Senate defections are already in play.
“I think, most importantly, yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down,” promised Trump.
People will take that Trump pledge literally, though.
No matter the ultimate fate of Trumpcare, the House vote will trigger instability in the private insurance markets much sooner than any change in law, even though most provisions in the House bill would not be effective until 2018.
NA, NA, HEY HEY
Outside the House chamber after the GOP win, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., was still singing “Kiss Him Goodbye.”
It’s not because she liked the outcome, quite the contrary. She was just seeing the political silver lining for the Democrats heading into 2018 and beyond.
While the intricacies of health insurance are extremely complex — as Trump has only realized in the past weeks – the politics, from the White House to Springfield, are simpler because people, through personal experience, can figure out if they will be better served by Obamacare, with its admitted imperfections, or the evolving Trumpcare.
“I think politically, I don’t understand the calculation that they made. This is a very, very perilous vote,” Schakowsky said.
As House GOP leaders were at the White House celebrating with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their Speaker, Paul Ryan, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, still in the Capitol, said the GOP win will come with an expiration date.
“This vote will be tattooed to them. As I also said, they will glow in the dark,” Pelosi said.
The House Democrats burst into that taunting ‘Na Na’ tune as the tote board in the House chamber showed the narrow Republican victory.
The national fight over the future of health care insurance is full of political implications for Illinois, especially in the 2018 governor’s race, where GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner has a string of Democrats lined up to run against him.
Trumpcare presents financial challenges to Illinois, because it would come with diminished federal payments for Medicaid.
Rauner jumped at the chance to distance himself from the GOP vote, saying in a statement the GOP bill “continues to be of deep concern to our administration.
“Recent changes did not address fundamental concerns about the bill’s impact on the 650,000 individuals that are part of our Medicaid expansion population, nor have those changes eased the concerns of the 350,000 people in the individual market who are dealing with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices,” he said.
Yes, Obamacare is flawed. But Dems gain if consumers see Trumpcare — or Raunercare, if they can make it stick — as worse.