A crowd waits outside Rep. Barbara Comstock’s Sterling field office ahead of the March 24 scheduled vote on the GOP healthcare bill. Photo: Jan Hyland.
Hours before the March 24 scheduled vote on the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10th) became the last member of Virginia’s congressional delegation to publicly come out against it.
Her plan to vote “no” on the American Healthcare Act (AHA), legislation pressed by President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, was confirmed by Deputy Chief of Staff Jeff Marschner. Her announcement added to the bill-killing number of Republicans who announced their opposition to the current iteration of “Trumpcare.”
The bill was pulled from consideration by the House this afternoon and its future is uncertain, though Ryan indicated there would be no immediate attempts at ACA replacement.
Comstock was mostly silent leading up to the scheduled vote, and her Republican colleagues from Virginia were split. Even those opposing it had different reasons, reflecting the chasm among Republican members of Congress generally.
Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, including Virginia’s Rep. David Brat (R-7th), planned to vote against the bill, saying it didn’t go far enough to repeal AHCA. On the other end of the political spectrum, some moderate Republicans, including Virginia’s Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st), said they would vote no because it didn’t offer some of the benefits of the ACA.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the AHA would cut more than $300 billion from the federal budget while preserving popular features of the ACA like prohibiting insurers from denying clients with pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep their children on their healthcare plans until age 26. The CBO also said the new healthcare system would leave 24 million people uninsured, and healthcare prices would rise dramatically for many people, especially the elderly and lower income workers.
Comstock is considered a moderate vote on the Hill, was a vocal critic of candidate Trump, and has touted her relationship with speaker Ryan. In her 2016 campaign, she emphasized her commitment to repeal and replace the ACA, saying ballooning insurance costs have made the program unsustainable in the long term.
The second-term congresswoman has been repeatedly criticized by Democrats and liberal activist groups for wanting to repeal the ACA, and then for failing to engage her constituents on the issue in public forums.
“As opposition continues to grow against the disastrous Republican health care bill, Congresswoman Comstock has remained conspicuously silent,” said Democratic Party of Virginia spokesperson Katie Baker. “By refusing to take a stand for fear of political retribution, Comstock is tacitly endorsing this bill and everything in it.”
Indivisible Lovettsville 20180 has also pressed Comstock, and held several rallies at her Sterling field office ahead of the proposed vote. Indivisible and Dump Comstock have announced plans to post a billboard criticizing her silence.
Comstock supporters have countered that the congresswoman is doing what every House member should do — assessing the pros and cons of a complex bill that has been modified at least once since introduced, and deliberating carefully before announcing how she will vote.
“The legislation is a work in progress, and we continue to talk with constituents, medical professionals, and other stakeholders on their concerns and needed reforms.” Marschner said.