Democrats target those who backed GOP health bill
WASHINGTON — Viewing Republican efforts to rein in the federal health care program as a political mistake, Democratic lawmakers and at least one outside group began laying the groundwork to challenge the GOP for control of the House in the 2018 midterm election.
The health advocacy group Save My Care on Monday announced the launch of a six-figure TV and digital advertising campaign beginning this week. It will target 24 Republican House members who voted last week to repeal the health care law enacted under President Obama.
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus scoffed at the notion that Republicans will lose control of the House in 2018.
He said the bill that narrowly cleared the House last week and that faces significant revision by the Senate will be an improvement over the current system of limited choice and rising costs.
‘‘There are some times in life you have to do what’s right, not what’s politically expedient,’’ Priebus said. ‘‘We’re going to do something better, and we’re going to do our job as legislators to get this thing done. I think that the Republican Party will be rewarded.’’
House Speaker Paul Ryan, said he was not concerned about political fallout because of the vote.
‘‘We’re keeping our word,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘People expect their elected leaders, if they run and campaign on doing something, they expect them to do that. And that’s what we’re doing.’’ Ryan argued that ‘‘we would spell disaster for ourselves, politically . . . if we go back on our word.’’
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, gleeful at the prospect of potentially reclaiming the House gavel in 2018, told Republicans they will ‘‘glow in the dark’’ over the vote.
The party that controls the White House traditionally loses seats in Congress in the election that follows a presidential inauguration. Unknown at this point, 18 months before the election, is how the health care vote could complicate that.
Among the lawmakers being targeted by Save My Care’s campaign is Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, the moderate Republican who helped revive the bill. MacArthur wrote an amendment that satisfied some lawmaker’s concerns about how the bill would treat people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Another target is Representative Dave Brat of Virginia, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative Republicans whose objections to an earlier version of the bill helped scuttle a House vote scheduled for late March.
Save My Care says it will emphasize the lawmakers’ support for a bill that congressional auditors have said will cause 24 million people to lose coverage over 10 years. The campaign is slated to run in congressional districts in 15 states.
A political group with ties to the House Republican leadership, American Action Network, said Sunday it was buying $500,000 in television time to promote the health care bill. The ad will focus on key elements of the American Health Care Act and thank Ryan and fellow Republicans for ‘‘keeping their promise’’ on the health care issue, the group said.