Rep. Barbara Comstock was recently featured in a Politico article as being one of a number of “centrist” Republicans that may be a “bigger obstacle to killing Obamacare than the Freedom Caucus.”
Politico writes that these centrists, some of whom narrowly won reelection in districts that supported Clinton for president (a group that includes Comstock), “present a unique challenge for GOP leadership, whose whip team started courting the center-right weeks before the rollout of their health care plan.”
The article goes on to quote a senior GOP source as saying, “A tweet from the president for these guys doesn’t have the same impact as it would on [House conservatives] Mark Meadows or Jim Jordan.”
Really, though, is Barbara Comstock a centrist? Certainly, she has gotten that reputation. For example, Washington Post noted that “The word “Republican” is absent from her campaign website; the word “bipartisan” appears throughout.”
Admittedly, she does use pleasant, bipartisan words, oftentimes including them in her missives. Just recently she wrote to me that “We should endeavor to put aside our differences and work together whenever possible for the greater good of this nation,” when I questioned her lack of support for calling for Trump’s tax returns to be released.
So, her words are centrist, perhaps. And a fair number of media seem to have bought her lines, hook and sinker. But what about her actions? Can she fool prominent statistician Nate Silver, head of the 538 Project Congress Tracker? This is the project that tracks the votes of each Member of Congress and scores them against the Trump platform.
Let’s start by looking at the score-cards for the other Representatives featured in Politico’s article. First up is Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA). According to the 538 Project, he has a score of 89.5%, meaning that 89.5 % of his votes are aligned with Trump and Trump’s political agenda. Rep. Dent has not yet committed to voting for the ACA repeal-replace bill. As he told Politico, “This is a difficult vote … There’s always been concern from our members.”
Next up are two Representatives from New York: Rep. John Faso (NY-19), who opposes the GOP’s intention to defund Planned Parenthood, and Rep. Daniel Donovan (NY-11), who has objected to the proposed phase-out of expanded Medicaid. Their scores, according to 538, also come in at 89.5%.
I personally would expect a “centrist” to have a score closer to 60-70%, but I’m no statistician. At any rate, Dent is the leader of the House GOP’s caucus of moderates, known as The Tuesday Group, so that’s saying something.
Now we come to Barbara Comstock, whom Politico, the Washington Post and many others consider “one of the most vulnerable GOP House incumbents.” According to the 538 Project, Ms. Comstock (VA-10) has a Trump-aligned score of 100%.
Why, with a score like that, is Congresswoman Barbara Comstock included in an article featuring centrist Republicans? Recently, she voted to drastically increase military spending, struck down a Rule that protected Planned Parenthood from being defunded, and repealed a Rule aimed at curbing gun ownership by the seriously mentally ill.
The Politico article puts Comstock in a group of “centrists” who are “playing up parts of the replacement bill that most resemble Obamacare.” That seemed to be the case, when she emailed her constituents a bulleted list of the ways that the new bill is similar to the current ACA:
She followed up with a neutral posting on Facebook, as if she were telling herself to play it cool on this one, and not enrage her voters (too) much, yet:
Next, I expect she will post again, stating her support more forcefully, and perhaps disagreeing with her party leadership’s bill on some small, symbolic point. Then she’ll invite her constituents to participate in a third tele-Town Hall, where she can continue to propagate the illusion that she is responsive and approachable to her district residents.
I really cannot guess why the media has decided that Ms. Comstock is a centrist. Surely it’s not because she repealed the Stream Protection Rule in favor of big coal business, or because she voted to pass a Rules package containing the Holman Rule which allows federal employee salaries to be slashed to $1 per year.
Whatever the reasons, given her shrewd ability to pass herself off as a centrist, people and news-sites who want to know more about Barbara Comstock should focus on her actions, rather than her words. Otherwise, we’re all at risk of being misled. Given that she has refused to listen to her constituents, who have jammed her phone lines calling for an in-person Town Hall, the importance of keeping of our current ACA, and the need to investigate Trump, particularly his business entanglements through his tax returns, perhaps turnabout is fair play, in this case.