Texas Repub­li­can hold­outs im­peril GOP health care bill,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Tilove and Julie Chang jtilove@statesman.com jchang@statesman.com Con­tact Jonathan Tilove at 512-445-3572. Con­tact Julie Chang at 512-912-2565. Twit­ter: @juliechang1

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.

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