WASHINGTON – Democrats pushed a package expanding “Obamacare” coverage through the House on Monday, a measure that's doomed to advance no further but spotlights how the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump's efforts to obliterate that law have fortified health care's potency as a 2020 campaign issue.
While the legislation had no chance of survival in the Republican-led Senate and faced a White House veto threat for good measure, Democrats plunged ahead anyway. It joins a pile of bills they've compiled that highlight their priorities on health care, jobs, ethics and voting rights, issues they intend to wield in this year’s presidential and congressional elections.
The bill cleared the House by a mostly party-line, 234-179 vote over solid GOP opposition. Republicans, who've never relented since unanimously opposing former President Barack Obama's 2010 statue, called the measure a blow to the nation's health care system during a pandemic and a political stunt.
“This bill attempts to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to resuscitate tired, partisan proposals,” the White House wrote in its statement. It said provisions curbing prescription drug costs would cut pharmaceutical company revenues and “undermine the American innovation the entire globe is depending on” by crimping their research on developing vaccines and treatments.
GOP lawmakers' votes against the House measure seemed certain to pop up in campaign spots this fall. In a taste of those ads, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday's vote gave lawmakers a choice between strengthening health care protections or being “complicit" in Trump's effort to dismantle it.
“Make no mistake," said Pelosi, D-Calif. “A vote against this bill is a vote to weaken Americans' health and financial security during a pandemic."
Three lawmakers, all facing potentially tough reelection fights this fall, crossed party lines on the vote: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J.
Democrats used Trump's and the GOP's failed 2017 efforts to erase Obama's law as their chief issue in the 2018 elections, helping them capture House control by gaining 40 seats.