This morning, House Republican leader Paul Ryan rushed to the White House to tell President Donald Trump that he didn’t have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The reason? He couldn’t find common ground between moderate Republicans who want to only partly gut the ACA and the hard-right Freedom Caucus that wants to fully eviscerate the 2010 healthcare law. By mid-afternoon, the promised vote on the ruling party’s replacement plan had been scuttled, with Ryan stating in a press conference that “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
Repealing the ACA has been a holy grail of the national Republican party ever since the complex, compromise-based legislation passed in 2010. But since finding themselves in power, Republicans have struggled to find consensus on exactly how to do so. As Trump conceded in his own post-mortem, party leadership just could not line up the votes for approval.
Prior to the abandonment of the bill, The New York Times listed Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) as one of 15 “moderate” House Republicans whose position on the ACA repeal, and the passage of its replacement, the American Healthcare Act or AHCA, was “undecided or unclear.” Earlier this month, Reichert voted to advance the AHCA through the Ways and Means committee. But as we posted yesterday, Reichert had softened in his former support for the AHCA amid a flurry of hurriedly negotiated changes to the legislation. “There are likely more changes to be made” to the legislation, a spokesperson told the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner. “Until we know what those changes are, Congressman Reichert is undecided.”
Part of the context of Reichert’s indecision is the indivision of the Indivisibles, a group of anti-Trump constituents who have been hounding Reichert for months. For instance, on Tuesday, about 25 people staged a “die-in” outside Reichert’s district office. On other days, countless numbers called and emailed his office, says Chris Petzold, organizer with Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District. They would often get a busy signal or a voice mailbox that was already full. Last Saturday, organizers joined with FUSE to hold a vigil in Issaquah. Recently, Petzold told Seattle Weekly, a group rallied outside a Westin where Reichert was speaking. They never did get ahold of him.
“Just last week, he was touting the benefits of the repeal plan, and now he’s moved to the uncommitted column,” Petzold said prior to this afternoon’s events. “We’re continuing our pressure to move him into the ‘No’ column. My team is working to call his office and let him know what’s at stake here.”
She emphasized that the Indivisibles’ beef has been with the president, not with Reichert per se. “We’re not after Dave Reichert, we’re after Donald Trump and his hateful agenda,” she said. But those amount to the same thing “insomuch as Dave Reichert supports Trump,” Petzold added.
Petzold admitted that it is hard to know how much of an impact concerned constituents like the Indivisibles had on members of congress. But as the scheduled vote drew near, some influence had become apparent. “I certainly feel like some of the more moderate Republicans are starting to feel the heat from their constituents,” she said at the time. “I don’t know if Reichert is in that camp.” But, she said, he certainly would be “if 50,000 constituents lose their healthcare.” According to Executive Dow Constantine’s office, 80,000 King County residents’ health insurance would have been “jeopardized” under the AHCA, and Medicaid funding for nearly 400,000 low-income King County residents would have been “endangered.”
“We think that Reichert should be acting like a moderate because he represents a purple district,” said Petzold. “We expect that’s how he’ll represent us.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Petzold’s group as Indivisible Snoqualmie Valley.