As the Republicans’ health care gambit unraveled last night, I thought about a quote Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) gave to the Washington Post after the far-right House plan passed in May, with his support.
“Is this bill good? No, I don’t like it,” Diaz-Balart said. But he suggested that voting for the bill would allow him to be part of future negotiations: “So my decision was, how do I stay involved?”
As we’ve discussed, even at the time, this seemed more like wishful thinking than a credible legislative strategy.
But the political context matters. House Republican leaders went to Diaz-Balart and members like him with a specific message: let’s just keep the process moving. Vote for the flawed House bill, the argument went, and the Senate will make it better. Lawmakers will have more than one bite at this apple, and voting “no” would derail the entire initiative, years in the making.
The pitch worked, but just barely: 217 House Republicans linked arms and voted for a dreadful piece of health care legislation. Among the 217 were 33 members of the Tuesday Group, made up of “moderate” GOP lawmakers, who succumbed to party pressure, followed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s lead, and toed the party line.
Two months later, what do they have to show for it? After having stuck out their necks to support a regressive health care plan the American mainstream abhors, what’s their reward for their risk?
There isn’t one. On the contrary, they’re now on record having voted for a radical bill that even Donald Trump himself has described as “mean” and “cold-hearted.”
What’s more, far from getting a second bite at the apple, it appears Senate Republicans are poised to pass nothing. These 217 House Republicans, many of whom represent districts that will be competitive in next year’s midterms, will somehow have to defend voting for an ugly bill in exchange for nothing.
The next time Paul Ryan and the House GOP leadership asks these members to cast a tough vote, I wonder how they’ll respond.