The GOP’s so-called zombie Trumpcare bill—the American Health Care Act that was left for dead last month after President Donald Trump warned House members that if they didn’t vote for it then, he was moving on—is shambling around Washington again this week, seeking a vote that would restore it to life once more.
But if you're wondering how Southern Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is voting, don't expect to find out. It turns out her position on the latest version of the legislation is a big secret.
Earlier today, The Hill's Cristina Marcos tweeted that McSally said "I'm not publicly sharing my position" when asked how she'd vote on the revised American Health Care Act.
Asked by the Weekly is McSally is supporting the legislation, McSally spokesperson Kelly Schibi said today via email:
The status quo is not an option, especially for Arizona where the ACA has left counties with one choice for coverage. Rep. McSally is deeply concerned that the most vulnerable in our communities receive care, which is why she has taken the lead in negotiating on their behalf. She has secured $60 billion in Medicaid for the elderly and disabled, and $90 billion for tax credits for individuals aged 50 to 64. She has also won an additional $15 billion for mothers and their newborns, and for those who struggle with mental health disorders and substance abuse. As her track record shows, she brings a constructive voice to the legislative process on behalf of all of her constituents for improved health care for Arizona.
McSally’s silence on her position on latest version of the GOP's legislation is a big contrast to where she was on the version that never made it to vote last month. On the day before the legislation was pulled just before it was supposed to go up for a vote, McSally went all in on that legislation, taking credit for adding $15 billion to help with the costs of providing maternity care coverage as well as treatment for mental illness and drug addiction. However, those are conditions that insurance companies must now cover under the existing Affordable Care Act, so the additional funding wouldn’t have been needed if McSally weren't supporting legislation that strips those essential health benefits from the law.
The latest version of the American Health Care Act appears to violate one of McSally’s key promises to voters in the highly competitive Congressional District 2: It does not keep intact protections for people with preexisting conditions.
To provide a bit of background: The lightning strike that jolted zombie healthcare back to its feet was an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who brought back on board many of the conservative Freedom Caucus members who torpedoed the earlier effort. The Freedom Caucus members weren’t satisfied with a bill that, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, led to 24 million Americans being uninsured (including many of those low-income citizens covered by the Medicaid expansion) and huge jumps in insurance costs for seniors. They balked at several provisions in the original repeal-and-replace legislation, such as protecting people with preexisting conditions from discrimination and requiring that the essential health benefits—such as maternity care and mental-health treatment—be covered. That legislation had dropped in the polls to 17 percent approval before House lawmakers gave up on passing it.
Under the new version of the legislation, states would be able to obtain a waiver to get rid of those protections for consumers as long as they jumped through a few hoops, such as setting up a “high-risk pool” to dump people with pre-existing conditions—cancer survivors, diabetics, and the like. (Arizona never actually implemented a high-risk pool before the Affordable Care Act passed, but it’s hard to believe the current Legislature would be willing to fork over the funding that a high-risk pool would require, although it’s easy to see state lawmakers seeking a waiver anyhow.)
Or, as Kevin Griffis, a former Obama administration Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and current vice president for communications of Planned Parenthood Federation of America puts it, GOP lawmakers took "a bad bill and figured out how to make it worse.”
The American Medical Association, among many other groups, is urging lawmakers to oppose the AHCA.
McSally's silence on the legislation isn't all that surprising; she had typically sidestepped controversial issues throughout her career. Stepping out on the issue last time earned her a number of negative attack ads, so she has evidently concluded it's politically smart to keep her head down. After all, if the votes aren't there this week before lawmakers recess, why stick her neck out?
But her reluctance to take a position could mean that she's seen polling that similar to a late April Public Policy Polling survey that was released today. The survey of 588 voters in McSally’s Congressional District 2 shows that the Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—is growing more popular. The poll showed that 54 percent of those surveyed supported the ACA, vs. 36 percent who did not and 10 percent who were undecided. McSally’s preferred alternative, the American Health Care Act, wasn’t nearly as possible: Only 25 percent of voters supported that, while 59 percent opposed it and 16 percent weren’t sure what they thought.
The poll was commissioned by Planned Parenthood, which is also under attack in the legislation. The GOP bill is written to narrowly single out Planned Parenthood by making its clinics ineligible for reimbursement should low-income Arizonans decide they want to get their healthcare there—you know, the kinds of services that Planned Parenthood has offered many women (and men) in America, such as cancer screenings, birth-control services, and STD treatment.
The PPP survey shows that 59 percent of the voters in the district have a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, as opposed to 34 percent who have an unfavorable view of the organization. And by a two-to-one margin, voters oppose defunding Planned Parenthood—63 percent said they didn’t want to see it happen, as opposed to 31 percent who want the funding to go away.
McSally has supported blocking low-income women from using Planned Parenthood services, saying they should instead go to community health centers to get their care. But despite repeated requests from the Weekly, her office has been unable to provide the names of any representatives of community health centers who want to take over the job now done by Planned Parenthood.
The PPP survey showed that 54 percent of voters said they would be less likely to support McSally if she voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, while 32 percent said it would make them more likely to support her and 13 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference.