California congressman cautious about ‘Trumpcare’ possibility

Rep. Tom McClintock — a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act — privately warned congressional Republicans at a party summit in Philadelphia last week that if they weren’t surefooted in repealing and replacing the landmark 2010 health care law, the GOP would pay a heavy price.

The Elk Grove lawmaker’s private warnings went public when a tape of the discussion was leaked to both the Washington Post and the New York Times.

According to the Post, McClintock said, “We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created [with repeal of Obamacare]. That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”

The Times used the same quote. McClintock was the first person quoted in both accounts.

There was no response to the leaked tape and the coverage of it on McClintock’s House website or on his official Twitter account.

The seemingly worried tone is at odds with the reputation of bluntness, smarts and self-confidence that McClintock has established since being elected chairman of the Ventura County Republican Party at age 23 soon after graduating UCLA, then gaining a state Assembly seat at age 26. Now 60, McClintock’s political base has shifted to Northern California, where he pursued and narrowly won an open House seat in 2008 and has been easily re-elected ever since.

Congressman could be targeted in next redistricting

But his comments may reflect the reality that Democrats probably will have more influence over redistricting than Republicans in California after the 2020 census and are likely to draw boundaries meant to target vulnerable GOP incumbents. Elk Grove, 20 miles south of Sacramento, could easily be moved into a district with many more Democrats.

In 2010, state voters used Proposition 20 to take control of redistricting from the Legislature and gave it to a newly established, ostensibly nonpartisan state commission. But a 2011 ProPublica report laid out a stealth campaign by Democrats to create new districts favorable to their party. 

McClintock has been an unrelenting critic of the Affordable Care Act since it was first proposed in 2009. In an October 2013 speech on the House floor, he read excerpts of letters and emails from nine constituents who complained of being whipsawed by the health law.

“I would beg the president to read his correspondence and listen to the millions of Americans who are losing their affordable health insurance as a result of Obamacare: who are seeing their health care premiums skyrocket, or their hours cut back at work, or who are losing their jobs or the health plans they liked and that he promised they could keep,” the New York native said.

Besides McClintock’s worries about GOP lawmakers being saddled with a badly crafted “Trumpcare,” other Republicans heard on the tape expressed fears that there had been too much rhetoric about how easy it would be to come up with a better replacement. There was sharp criticism of a proposal to give households a large tax credit for health insurance because that would mean families would have to pay large premiums up front. Another concern was the shakiness of the GOP claim that its replacement would be sure to cost far less than the ACA.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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