Virginia Republicans Could Make or Break ACA Replacement

Mar 20, 2017

Republican Representative Dave Brat is one of several Virginia GOP lawmakers that have opposed the current plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Virginia Republicans are proving to be a thorn in the party establishment’s side when it comes to overhauling the Affordable Care Act.  Three of the Commonwealth’s seven-member Republican delegation have already come out opposed to their party’s own health care measure, which, as Correspondent Matt Laslo explains, makes Virginia Republicans an obstacle for party leaders.

Since the Republican Party captured the White House the GOP has been locked in an internal debate over what to do with Obamacare. That’s left the details of the replacement continuously evolving. Virginia Republican Congressman Dave Brat says the moving target is even hard for lawmakers to track.  

“It’s so hard to keep up with this, right? There’s umpteen million moving pieces here, right and we’re trying to process this.”

Even still, Brat’s had no trouble understanding enough to know he doesn’t like Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to tweak the Affordable Care Act. He claims it doesn’t represent a repeal of Obamacare – merely a softening of some government mandates. All while adding new ones. Brat opposes the very notion of the bill, which he says keeps Washington in the driver’s seat.  

“And so central government, top down government control especially at the federal level does not work. We’ve seen that.”

The average tax credit provided by the government under the GOP plan would drop by more than $1,000 for many in Virginia, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Brat says that number pales in comparison to what the nation is on the hook for with entitlement programs, like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

“We promised a hundred trillion dollars to the next generation in programs. The federal government has created that problem. Medicare is insolvent, social security is insolvent and now we’re going to create another entitlement on top of a hundred trillion.”

And that’s the same reason that has one of the Commonwealth’s newest lawmakers, Republican Tom Garrett, opposing the bill.

"We know that historically freer markets, and don’t get me wrong, I understand healthcare is not a commodity like sneakers, but freer markets lead to lower costs. And we can do this without creating a new entitlement.”

Garrett says unless party leaders make major concessions they won’t win his support.

“I’ve heard people characterize this as a lot of people playing a lot of games of chicken. We’re resolute, and we will stand here. And we’ll do what’s right. Not just for today, but for posterity.”

Virginia Republican Rob Wittman also opposes the health bill, but on different grounds. He doesn’t like the way it forces a state like Virginia, that didn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare, to pay for the expansion in other states.

Wittman also wants the bill to allow people to shop for insurance across state lines.

“Want to make sure too that if you’re going to go to the free market mechanisms, you have to have the full complement of being able to get there. So if you do this without being able to open up the interstate marketplace and you say ‘well we’re going to do that later’ without any assurance that that’s going to happen, then the whole basis for which you’re going forward with this is problematic.”

But party leaders say that will come up later. And Wittman says he’s still capable of being won over.

“I’m willing to exchange ideas, willing to work on things, I want to make this happen. We do need to repeal and replace Obamacare and I voted there consistently but they key is, how do we do that in the right way? If there’s a difference between doing something and doing the right thing, I want to make sure that we’re doing the right.”

Virginia’s other Republicans report still being undecided on the measure, while all of the states Democrats are unified in their opposition to the GOP health plan.