Texas Republican holdouts imperil GOP health care bill,
Heading into what could be the most critical vote of the Trump presidency, about 10 of the 25 Republican members of Congress from Texas have yet to declare their support for the GOP plan to replace Obamacare with the American Health Care Act.
Three of the seven Republicans representing parts of Travis County have yet to give a firm “yes,” though U.S. Reps. Roger Williams, R-Austin, and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, seem to be leaning that way. It isn’t clear how U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, will land.
As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, McCaul faces the expectation from the White House and the House leadership that he will help put the legislation on which so much of their political capital is riding over the top.
But sentiment on McCaul’s Facebook page — and response to an email poll his political operation sent to about 70,000 constituents and others who have communicated with his office — was running overwhelmingly against the Republican bill.
Smith, whose district includes a swath of Central and South Austin, praised the bill early on, but remained quiet about a final decision.
Williams spokesman Vince Zito said the lawmaker remains undecided, though Williams, who was among House Republicans who met with President Donald Trump on the issue Tuesday, told CNN afterward, “I want this president to succeed and I think America does too, and I’m going to do everything I can to help him.”
“This is big moment in the history of our country to dismantle this horrible Obamacare,” Williams said.
U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock; Bill Flores, R-Bryan, whose district includes parts of North Austin; and Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, whose district runs to Bastrop and Caldwell counties, all said they would be voting “yes.”
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, who represents a sprawling district that runs from San Antonio to just east of El Paso, also hadn’t declared his intentions. On Monday he said he’d like to see some changes made to “help those who were previously uninsurable, and strengthen protections for the aged and disabled on Medicaid.”
U.S. Rep. Louise Gohmert, the arch-conservative from Tyler, was the firmest “no” among Texas Republicans.
Politico reported Wednesday that more than 25 members of the House Freedom Caucus were prepared to vote against the bill. In Texas, the Freedom Caucus includes U.S. Reps. Ted Poe of Humble, Randy Weber of Friendswood, Brian Babin of Woodville and Joe Barton of Ennis.
“He is currently still trying to negotiate some additional changes to the legislation,” a Weber spokesman said. “As a result, he remains undecided.
Barton told The Hill on Monday to count him as a “friendly lean no.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, a leading opponent of the bill as a veteran member of the House Ways and Means Committee, predicted a down-to-the-wire vote.
“Democrats remain united against this dreadful bill, Republicans still don’t have the votes, but I don’t underestimate (House Speaker Paul) Ryan and Trump’s ability to get to 215, which appears to be the number needed tomorrow,” Doggett said. “This means, depending upon any GOP absences, they can only afford to lose 21 or 22. At present, there are multiple claims of at least 27 GOP no votes.”
“Republicans remain split: Some want Obamacare replaced with NothingCare; others prefer LittleCare and really don’t care much who loses health insurance,” Doggett said. “Actually, the NothingCare advocates are more honest, since the LittleCare Republican bill results in NothingCare for millions.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Senate majority whip, predicted a tight win for the Trump-Ryan plan Thursday.
“First and foremost this is a chance to deliver on a promise that virtually every Republican campaigned on, which is to empower more people, more Americans with a health care system that will provide better options at a lower cost,” Cornyn said.
But Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans, a bulwark of tea party thinking in Texas, sent out an email roundly condemning the bill he called SwampCare.
“Members of Congress are poised to vote on the replacement to ObamaCare, but conservatives say the Republican plan not only doesn’t do enough, it actually moves many policies in the wrong direction,” wrote Sullivan. “It’s not a repeal bill, it’s a repair bill. We were promised repeal and respect, not repair and quit.”
U.S. Rep. Louise Gohmert, the archconservative from Tyler, was the firmest ‘no’ among Texas Republicans.