Hurd Faces Political Quandary in Do-or-die GOP Health Care Bill Vote

WASHINGTON -- As House Republicans have scrambled this week in attempt to cobble together enough votes to pass their health care bill, most of the attention has focused on dissent from the Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative members of Congress claiming that the legislation does not do enough to roll back Obamacare.But on the opposite end of the GOP spectrum, the most moderate Texas Republican has also struggled to reach a decision on whether to vote in favor of the legislation -- for very different reasons.Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, represents the only true swing district in Texas. In November, he became the first congressman in the sprawling West Texas border district to secure reelection since 2008, winning by less than two percent.With much less margin for error than most other Texans in Congress, the San Antonio Republican is facing pressure from all sides as Friday’s do-or-die vote bears down. With the GOP unable to lose more than 22 votes from its members, focus on Hurd’s support intensified as the House prepares to take a crucial vote on the legislation.The American Action Network, a center-right political advocacy group, has put up ads in his district, along with those of other hesitant Texas Republicans, urging them to vote in favor of Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill. But Planned Parenthood and other liberal opponents of the American Health Care Act delivered a petition to Hurd’s San Antonio office Thursday demanding that he vote against it.According to an analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress, 74,700 nonelderly people in Hurd’s district stand to lose coverage by 2026, if the bill passes, due to a combination of factors including affordability, loss of employer-sponsored coverage and forgoing coverage once the individual mandate is eliminated.As of late Thursday, just hours before the scheduled Friday afternoon vote, a spokeswoman said Hurd was still reviewing the latest version of the bill.Ryan and President Donald Trump are casting Friday’s vote as an ultimatum: the Republican Party’s only chance to repeal Obamacare after seven years of promising to do so. If the vote fails, Trump is vowing to give up on the effort and move on to other issues in his agenda.Though Hurd has often differed with Trump -- calling his border wall proposal, for example, the “most expensive and least effective way to secure the border” -- he’s rarely split with House GOP leadership. In just his first few years in Congress, he has been rewarded with a spot on the influential House intelligence committee, a fitting spot for an ex-CIA officer.The last time Hurd commented on the bill himself was five days ago in a Sunday news release in which he said he would be pressing for several changes to the legislation, saying the bill “must help those who were previously uninsurable, and strengthen protections for the aged and disabled on Medicaid.”But the San Antonio Republican also continued to decry the effects of Obamacare in the Sunday statement and insisted that “maintaining the status quo is not an option.”Because of constant negotiations between GOP leaders and conservative members, much has shifted since then, but most of Hurd’s proposed changes remain absent from the final draft of the bill. Hurd’s quandary encapsulates the broader dilemma that Republican leadership has faced this week as they have attempted to reach a consensus on the bill. Each time they try to negotiate with the more conservative wing, they risk losing support from moderates, and vice versa.“For every vote you pick up on the right, you lose two on the left; for every vote you pick up on left, you lose two on the right,” said New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins, Trump’s liaison on Capitol Hill, as he described the frustrating process of trying to reach a consensus this week.Hurd was not the only Texas Republican facing pressure from the left. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, avoided taking a firm stance on the bill most of the week as his office took a barrage of calls from his district, and his spokeswoman said that he was undecided. But late Thursday, McCaul told The Dallas Morning News he would support the bill.A few top moderate Republicans in the House, like Rep. Charlie Dent, of Pennsylvania, have come out against the bill, demonstrating the difficulty of coalescing a strong coalition in a party with several disparate factions.“I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals,” Dent said in a Wednesday night statement announcing his opposition.His concerns echo criticisms from Democratic colleagues who say the American Health Care Act amounts to a massive tax giveaway for the wealthy, and will make coverage for the working poor unaffordable.The most significant change Republicans have now made to the legislation is that it will repeal essential health benefits -- a list of federally required services insurers must cover under the Affordable Care Act -- and send control over such benefits back to the states. That will appease some Freedom Caucus members, but not more moderate Republicans like Hurd.After a week of saying little on the legislation, Hurd emerged from an 11th hour House GOP conference meeting on Thursday on his cell phone, which prevented reporters from asking him where he stands on the bill. He remained on his phone all the way on the long walk upstairs to the House floor as reporters followed.As soon as he finally reached the House floor, where reporters are not allowed to enter, he hung up the phone.  Continue reading...

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