March 21, 2017

Pearce uncommitted on Obamacare replacement bill

Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump at CPAC 2011. Flickr /cc

As of Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Steve Pearce is still undecided on the Republican healthcare overhaul.

Pearce isn’t tipping his hand as to which way he’ll vote, even as more Republicans begin to announce their intentions on the massive healthcare bill pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and President Donald Trump.

The effort is the first major piece of legislation introduced during the Trump era. Both chambers of Congress are controlled by Republicans, who want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Some conservatives say the bill doesn’t go far enough to repeal the ACA.

When asked if Pearce supported the legislation with recently-announced changes, a spokeswoman indicated Pearce was still undecided on the bill, which could come before the House floor as soon as Thursday.

“The Congressman will continue to review changes being made to the GOP plan before the vote on Thursday,” Keeley Christensen wrote. “Concerns still remain regarding affordability for consumers in New Mexico.”

Pearce is part of the House Freedom Caucus, made up of conservative Republicans in the chamber. The caucus has enough votes to block the legislation.

Of the 29 members, a report says 25 are against the bill, while two are leaning against the bill. Currently, Republicans make up 234 members of the House. The bill needs 218 votes to make it to the Senate.

Already, the House changed the bill to gain votes, including a controversial revision to attract the votes of upstate New York Republicans. The carve-out would stop counties with fewer than 5 million people from needing to pay for Medicaid. In other words, heavily Democratic New York City would continue the payments.

Other changes would let states accept Medicaid funding as a block grant, or a set amount of money. Currently, Medicaid funding is based on the number of enrollees. Other changes to Medicaid included mandating work requirements and stopping states from expanding the program. New Mexico expanded Medicaid funding under Obamacare provisions in 2014.

Trump himself indicated Republicans in the House would risk losing reelection if they voted against the bill.

New Mexico Democrats in the delegation opposed the bill after the Congressional Budget Office “scored,” or analyzed its fiscal impacts.

The recently announced changes didn’t make much of a difference in their stance.

Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the changes made the Democratic congresswoman more solidified in her opposition to the bill.

“Most of the changes went in the wrong direction, including the tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans, that will start a year earlier,” Gallegos said in a statement.

A spokesman for Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, also a Democrat, called the legislation “misguided” and said the congressman did not support the bill.

“The bill is still very bad for New Mexico,” Joe Shoemaker said in a statement. “It will cause more than 325,000 New Mexicans to lose health care, shift more than a billion dollars in cost to our state and insurance costs under the GOP bill will still rise dramatically for middle class and working families.”

That analysis found 24 million fewer Americans would have health coverage by 2026, including 14 million losing insurance next year alone.

Republicans, including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, said the analysis did not examine the full scope of the deal.

Even if the bill were to clear the House, its prospects in the Senate are dire. With a narrow four-member majority, the defection of just three Republicans would doom the bill.