When House Republicans first tried to replace Obamacare in March, Rep. Steve Pearce – a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus – didn’t support the legislation. But on Thursday, after weeks of additional negotiating, the House approved the American Health Care Act with Pearce’s support. The new bill, which now heads to the Senate, passed by a very narrow 217-213 vote – so Pearce’s support was crucial.
Democrats – including those representing New Mexico – characterized the bill as a heartless proposal that gives tax breaks to the wealthy while stripping poor people of health care options. The headline on a scathing Washington Post editorial Friday summed up the legislation in three words: “Betrayal, carelessness and hypocrisy.” The editorial said the legislation was hastily concocted without the benefit of a Congressional Budget Office analysis of its costs or how many Americans would lose their coverage under Obamacare. The bill also offered no iron-clad protections for those with pre-existing conditions, the editorial noted, and would allow states to choose whether their insurers can opt out of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
In an interview with the Journal editorial board Friday, Pearce called characterizations of the Republican bill as draconian or heartless “totally misplaced.”
“We got a much better bill,” Pearce said in comparing the previous House GOP bill to that passed Thursday. “It still has deep flaws – you could find a dozen reasons to vote against it. But with Obamacare, we are in an absolute free-fall. I’m here representing a group of people on the lower end of the economic spectrum, and they are just struggling to make ends meet.”