When Speaker Paul Ryan finally called last week for a vote of the House of Representatives for the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), the Republican plan described by Ryan as the “repeal and replace” bill for Obamacare, there seemed to be some surprise that the entire 14-member California Republican delegation voted for it.
Actually, the “aye” votes from Ken Calvert (R-Corona), Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley), Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), Darrell Issa (R-Vista), Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove), Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), David Valadao (R-Hanford), Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) weren’t really that much of a surprise at all.
Here are six reasons why all of them voted for the AHCA:
1. The Promise
Since Republicans took the House majority back from the Democrats in the 2010 elections, there has been one singular and consistent commitment made by House Republicans: repealing Obamacare. Not only has it been a prominent rhetorical fixture for years — on the house floor, in district town halls, and even in fundraising appeals – but Senate and House Republicans even put a full repeal of Obamacare on President Barack Obama’s desk (which he, of course, vetoed). To have so much attention paid to “the vote” to ostensibly keep this promise and vote “no” was to invite claims of hypocrisy and even a robust Republican primary challenger.
2. The Policy
Whether you are a conservative who just believes that the federal government should not be in the healthcare space (this bill, while not leaving that space altogether, represents a significant pulling back of federal engagement) – or whether you just see the ill effects of Obamacare — with skyrocketing premiums, and patients having few choices in doctors and care – there are plenty of policy reasons for a Republican to vote for this bill.
3. Campaigns Are Expensive
Competitive races for Congress are expensive, multi-million dollar affairs. With Clinton’s thirty-point win over Trump in California, more GOP members are in districts that analysts are now calling toss-ups than ever before. Not one member in a competitive seat can win without relying on Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McCarthy, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and other national PACs coming in and spending huge on their behalf.
4. President Trump
Never underestimate the power of a president to influence politics, especially within his own political party. It is no small thing to cross a president when he has made it clear this vote is not only a top priority, but that he and his people are carefully watching to see who is “with him” and who is “against him” – as was clearly done here.
5. The Home State of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
It is no small thing that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is a member of the California delegation. Kevin is known primarily for his politics chops: he knows how to build relationships. Whether in his time in Congress, or his preceding stint in the state legislature, McCarthy has known the members of this delegation personally for many years. He know how to use his own individual relationships within the delegation, and he is hard-wired to understand what buttons to push for each of them.
6. Unity of the “Outside Groups”
In recent years there has been a lot of divisiveness within the House Republican conference. Look to the tussles between House leadership at the House Freedom Caucus, which includes the most conservative and libertarian members. Warring outside groups have exacerbated these divisions. On one side, there are groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, other big business PACS, and Americans for Tax Reform; and on the other side there are groups like the Club for Growth, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and the Senate Conservatives Fund. But in this case, on this latest version of the AHCA, all of these groups either overtly supported it, or issued positive statements “signaling” their support. A rare coming-together these days.
Many California Members said they were undecided until the vote (Denham actually said he would vote no). Look only to politics to tell you why that was the case. There is no doubt that the vote was controversial and close, and had been called once before.
It did not make a lot of sense, politically, for some of these members to “show their cards” until they had to — which happened when Ryan finally called for the up-or-down vote.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California and his columns appear regularly on this page. He has been chronicling California politics for nearly three decades. He can be found on Twitter here. Disclaimer – long ago Jon worked for time for Rep. Ed Royce.