Democratic candidates are on the attack, and Republicans are dissembling. In a couple of special congressional elections, the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed last week on a partisan vote and is embraced by President Donald Trump, is helping the Democrats.
Many Republicans who voted for the bill, which is designed to replace Obamacare, have ducked any big sessions with constituents while home on recess this week; the few who didn’t got a negative reaction. This grass-roots backlash is similar to the reaction at town-hall forums against the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010.
Few Republicans in potentially competitive contests are encouraged by the claim by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan that voters will reward the party for repealing and replacing Obamacare and by their suggestion that GOP candidates should run on it next year.
Nonpartisan political experts are saying the vote could endanger the Republicans’ House majority, and the initial polls indicate little support for the bill.
There are early tests in special House races. In Georgia, running for the seat vacated by Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, has openly assailed the House-passed bill. Republican aspirant Karen Handel offered a back-handed endorsement of it as a “first step,” saying, “It is important that we not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Then she changes the subject.
In another race, for a Republican-held seat in Montana, the Democratic candidate seized on criticizing the bill at every opportunity. The Republican candidate said he didn’t know enough of the details of the GOP plan to have an opinion, but then was caught in a private telephone call with Washington lobbyists praising passage of the legislation.