On Looming AHCA Vote, Comstock Remains the Most Opaque Member

 

CBO pic
Photo: CBO

 

Trump and Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) is scheduled to go to the House floor tomorrow for a full vote. Today marks the second straight day that undecided or wavering Republican Members are receiving the full-court press from Trump and Ryan. Without a doubt, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is included in that list of people being lobbied to vote yes. We are just not sure what “group” she is being targeted in.

As reported in various news outlets lately, we know that the House Freedom Caucus, headed by Rep. Mark Meadows, has sustained prolonged cajoling by Trump and Ryan to flip their votes to yes. Significant portions of the manager’s amendment, unveiled Monday night, were tailored to appeal to these members. The New York Times reported that such changes include: “States can apply for waivers to impose Medicaid work requirements make Medicaid recipients prove they are looking for work” and “Obamacare taxes phase out in 2018 this year.”

“They’ve been talking to me all day, and we’ll be talking again tonight,” said one member of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), who has already gone on record as being a no vote. If that’s how GOP members opposed to the bill are being heckled, imagine the pressure being placed on the so-called “undecideds,” which Comstock claims to be?

We also know that centrist Representatives of the Tuesday Group (note: Comstock is not a member) are being lobbied by the party leadership and Trump administration. The leadership took pains to include concessions to appease these centrist members, as the Monday night manager’s amendment added several items, such as this, reported by the NYT: “Every AHCA recipient gets a flat tax credit based on age – except, possibly, Americans between 50 and 64.” As the Times explains, Older Americans with low incomes in high-cost areas would lose very big. This is a group that tended to vote for President Trump. This reality worried some moderate G.O.P. politicians, particularly those from rural districts, where prices for health insurance are the highest.”

As the focus on undecided members continues, the AHCA bill itself, is scheduled to clear a major hurdle today: getting through the House Rules Committee, which is holding a hearing on the bill, H.B. 1628 right now. According to Wikipedia, “Rather than being responsible for a specific area of policy, as most other committees are, it is in charge of determining under what rule other bills will come to the floor. As such, it is one of the most powerful committees and is often described as “an arm of the leadership” and as the “traffic cop of Congress.”

Toward the beginning of today’s Rules hearing, one minority member moved that the hearing be adjourned until a new CBO score is generated to take into account the potential impact of the manager’s amendment, given that the most recent study reports that 24 million people are expected to lose their health insurance as a result of the AHCA, pre-manager’s amendment. The majority members on the Committee quickly voted that motion down, 7-2, claiming that an updated CBO score “was not necessary.”

Watch the markup hearing, LIVE:

Does Rep. Barbara Comstock care about receiving an updated CBO score? Unfortunately, no one knows. The Hill, who has painstakingly compiled a detailed whip list that must closely match that of the House Majority Whip, had only this to say about Comstock: “Rep. Barbara Comstock (Va.) — “The legislation is a work in progress,” a Comstock spokesman told The Washington Post in a statement on March 14.” Of the 14 Members listed on the “Unclear/Undecided” section of the unofficial whip list, only one other member was more opaque, simply stating he was “undeclared.”

Though an updated CBO score will likely be unavailable prior to tomorrow’s scheduled full House vote on the AHCA, the Brookings Institution has released a study of the Republicans’ revised bill, surmising that “We conclude that the changes made by the manager’s amendment will not meaningfully alter CBO’s earlier prediction that the AHCA would substantially reduce insurance coverage. … we expect that CBO’s updated estimate of the reduction in insurance coverage under the revised AHCA in 2026 is unlikely to be much below its prior estimate of 24 million, and it is possible that its revised estimate could be somewhat higher.” (emphasis added).

Brookings graphic

As of last night, it doesn’t appear that Ms. Comstock cares to wait on an updated CBO score. Hours ago, some constituents in Virginia’s 10th district received this email, which is a carbon copy of emails that have been sent for the past several weeks. It simply re-states that the legislation “is a work in progress,” and gives a bulleted list designed to appeal to supporters of Obamacare:

email from comstock re AHCA

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s continued silence on the looming AHCA bill is deafening. Individuals who call her office are simply told by staff that “the Congresswoman is continuing to talk to constituents, and may not make a decision until she’s on the floor, getting ready to cast her vote.”

VA10Congressional reached out to her staff today, and asked if Ms. Comstock has shown any desire to delay voting until a revised CBO score is received. The answer was “We don’t know. She’s meeting with constituents and physicians today, to hear more about what the effects AHCA would have on healthcare in this district.”

Out of a GOP group of 124 Members, 23 have come right out and said they plan to vote no. Six more Members have indicated that they are leaning toward voting no. Eighty-one more Members have stood up and clearly announced that they intend to vote yes, or are leaning toward voting yes. Only 14 Members are Unclear/Undecided, and unfortunately for VA-10, that is the “group” that our Representative is in. Of those 14 Members, only two have been so opaque as to not give even one clue to their constituents or the media, about what their thought process is on the issue.

Unfortunately for VA-10, Barbara Comstock is in that club of dubious distinction, nearly by herself.

 

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