Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., during a press conference where he announced he will vote no on the proposed GOP healthcare bill at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building on Friday, June 23, 2017 in Las Vegas. 
Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP

Health care fight leaves Nevada’s Heller in an impossible spot


In late June, Senate Republicans unveiled a deeply regressive and unpopular health care plan, and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) – the only GOP senator up for re-election next year in a state Hillary Clinton won – adopted a bold posture, rejecting his party’s plans.

Indeed, the Nevada Republican made quite a spectacle of his opposition to the GOP legislation, hosting a press conference alongside Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) to denounce his party’s blueprint in no uncertain terms.

But in the days and weeks that followed, Heller started feeling intense pressure from the right, and the senator’s posture on health care started to buckle. GOP insiders went so far as to say that Heller could be “bought off.”

When it came time to start casting votes on the Senate floor last week, Heller balked at his party’s “repeal and delay” gambit, but he locked arms with 48 other Republicans and voted for the GOP’s “skinny repeal” plan – which ultimately failed. The Huffington Post’s headline rang true: “What The Hell Was Dean Heller Thinking?”

Sen. Dean Heller blew it.

It’s hard to imagine a more terrible way for a moderate like the Nevada Republican to handle an extremely unpopular piece of legislation like the Senate health care bill, which went down in flames early Friday.

At just about every turn over the past few weeks, the vulnerable senator who faces re-election next year danced haphazardly from one position to the other and everywhere in between. By enthusiastically embracing criticisms of the bill while simultaneously voting to advance it several times, Heller may have seriously damaged his reputation among liberals and conservatives.

There’s fresh evidence that the voters in Nevada have taken note.

Daily Kos yesterday flagged the latest findings from Public Policy Polling, which found Heller with a 22% approval rating in his home state the year ahead of his tough re-election fight.

No matter what, it was going to be challenging for the Nevada Republican to handle his party’s repeal crusade, but as things stand, the fight has left him even weaker than expected.