In just two days’ time, the House will vote on a bill that Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) described to The Hill “as perhaps the most consequential of their congressional careers:” whether or not to pass the American Healthcare Act (AHCA). With a manager’s amendment due to be unveiled tonight, and Trump’s plan to visit Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to cajole undecided GOP members, efforts to move the bill through have reached a fevered pitch.
Though The Hill reports that the GOP is unwilling to share their Whip list (with the names of who plans to vote Aye or Nay), the Congressional news site has its own list, with 17 members on it who plan to vote Nay. According to the math, given that all Democrats plan to vote Nay, the leadership can only afford 21 of their members to reject the bill on the House floor.
It is clear that the bill has no chance of passing without several more conservative Republicans signing on to support it. In an effort to win these votes over, Trump met with the House Freedom Caucus, offering conservative cherries to sweeten the deal, such as “giving states the option to impose a Medicaid work requirement and flexibility in how they get funding from the federal government.”
However, the Chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters just hours ago, that talks had ended and that he didn’t think many of the members were enticed into supporting it. According to The Hill, he said, “There are some small tweaks that are good tweaks, but there’s not substantial changes in the manager’s amendment that would make anybody be more compelled to vote for this.”
Meanwhile, in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, outside PAC-funded commercials pressuring Congresswoman Barbara Comstock to support the AHCA continue to compete with constituents who make the dogged trek to the Congresswoman’s offices to meet with her regarding their significant and varied concerns with the bill.
In one such meeting today, a small constituent group met with Comstock’s congressional staff and had this to report: “We talked about a rule that was being put forth requiring one parent to be working before allowing Medicaid benefits and how it would be disastrous, especially for parents with a child battling cancer – this was the particular interest of one in our group – who often have to quit their jobs in order to care for their child. [A staff member] said that she will bring that up with the Congresswoman, that it was a good point that she hadn’t realized.”
VA10Congressional reached out to Comstock’s staff this afternoon, asking why she hasn’t yet issued a statement on how she plans to vote. Staff answered that “she hasn’t yet decided, as she’s still looking into the issues. She may not make her decision until she is on the House floor, getting ready to cast her vote.”
Given all the above, one must ask: what, exactly, would sweeten the deal for Ms. Comstock? Or sour it? The manager’s amendment already contains a concession meant to win over the delegation of NY moderates (of which there are at least three members). However, a significant amount of effort is being devoted to winning over conservatives, which could only mean making the bill even less palatable to centrists and their constituents. The Hill reports that Donald Trump has been flying recalcitrant members down to Mar-a-Lago, to be wheedled into voting for his first major piece of legislation.
Ms. Comstock’s lack of position on this bill has pushed her into the roll of legislative-linchpin. We have already established that Rep. Comstock is not a Centrist. What would it take for her to vote for this disaster of a bill? Conversely, what would it take for her to stand up for her constituents and vote against the legislation; to stand up to the dark money being funneled against her by the American Action Network and the heavy nudging by Paul Ryan?
Being an ultra-conservative Republican in a purple district that voted for Hillary Clinton by a large margin, Ms. Comstock’s position is precarious. She either risks the wrath of her constituents, or the ire of the GOP-led administration and Congressional leadership. Either way, she is likely to take a political hit. Without the support of voters, she is sure to lose her seat in 2018. Without the support of her party, she and her legislative goals will be left dangling in the wind.
In this situation, being between a rock and hard place, we believe Ms. Comstock would do best to err on the side of her constituents, by voting No on the AHCA. If she cannot do this, then she is representing Congress, rather than the people who sent her there to represent them. This could, in the Majority Whip’s own words, be the most consequential vote of Comstock’s career. Depending on how she votes, it could be one of her last.