Chris Collins

New York lawmakers react to the House health care vote

Thursday’s debate about the passage of a bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the House of Representatives bled into Friday morning, as a flood of statements, comments and measured silence echoed across social media and water coolers.

Our unscientific Twitter poll proved – if nothing else – that the tone is rather vitriolic. Further stoking the outcry among Democrats was the news that New York Rep. Chris Collins voted yes for the bill, yet admitted to not having read it before doing so:

Despite being the co-author of an amendment requiring that the state absorb Medicaid costs currently covered by counties, Collins later told The Buffalo News he was unaware that that the ACHA could cost the state $3 billion in federal funding, even asking the reporter for an explainer.

After casting his "yes" vote, the Western New York congressman said that the legislation “puts us even closer to ending the Obamacare nightmare that has plagued Americans for the last seven years." He added that it "increases competition" and "gives people the power to make their own choices with their own health care," while also paving the way for "the largest property tax reduction ever to be enacted."

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Most of the New York representatives who cast “yes” votes on Thursday also cited the tax relief that most counties of the state would see under this provision, even if it faces likely legal hurdles. Collins’ partner on the amendment, John Faso, sent out a statement on voting “yes” that reads:

“The AHCA contains a provision I authored to eliminate the ability of New York State as of 2020 to impose Medicaid costs on county property taxpayers. For a typical homeowner or commercial property owner residing in the 19th District, Medicaid costs represent over 40 percent of their county property tax burden. New York’s Medicaid spending dwarfs that of most other states.”

Another common thread among the "yes" voters is the theme of “not perfect, but something that had to be done.”

“The American Health Care Act is not perfect,” said Elise Stefanik, the representative of New York's 21st District and maybe the biggest surprise among the delegates to vote "yes." “But it is an important step in reforming our broken healthcare system to help families in our district. As this legislation moves to the Senate, I will continue to work to strengthen the support for those with pre-existing conditions.”

And that brings us to a key recurring phrase. Most who oppose the House’s legislation pointed to the enormous list of “pre-existing conditions” insurers could arbitrarily alter coverage for. Some critics said it seems especially targeted towards women, with sexual assault and pregnancy on the list of “conditions,” which had many thinking Stefanik was on the fence. She co-authored an amendment to the legislation as well, and one that will likely have a bigger impact on the final bill than New York County taxes.

“I have kept one of my first promises that I made to you, which is that any law we pass applies to Members of Congress just as it would any citizen." –Rep. Elise Stefanik

“I have kept one of my first promises that I made to you, which is that any law we pass applies to Members of Congress just as it would any citizen," Stefanik said in a statement. "That’s why I’ve coauthored successful legislation to ensure that Congress lives by the same rules in this bill as everyone else. I have also worked to have additional funding added for maternity care and language included to reduce the Medicaid mandate on our local counties.”

Reinforcing the concept that more New Yorkers would not face a threat of losing coverage due to pre-existing conditions, two other New York yea-sayers doubled-down on the promise.

Rep. Tom Reed from New York's 23rd District called the legislation nothing short of a "victory for the American people."

"We are finally on the path to fixing our broke and broken health care system," Reed said. "The AHCA upholds protections for pre-existing conditions and the expansion of Medicaid, which help our most vulnerable populations. The bill will also provide much needed property tax relief for New Yorkers who are unfairly forced to foot the bill for Medicaid."

And Rep. Lee Zeldin, the 37-year-old representatuve from the 1st District, gave us his best Trump impression:

“The amount of outright lies about the AHCA that have been manufactured and echoed by individuals and entities have been insane," Zeldin said. "The bill protects people with pre-existing conditions, and gives states greater flexibility to lower premiums and stabilize the insurance market. The lies about this bill are being perpetuated by the same people who told us if you liked your plan, you could keep your plan, if you liked your doctor, you could keep your doctor, and that premiums under the ACA would decrease by $2,500 per family. “

Rep. Dan Donovan, who represents New York’s 11th Congressional District in Staten Island and South Brooklyn, was one of two New York Republicans to vote against the measure, which wasn’t too surprising given his New York City constituents would bear the brunt of the burden of the Collins-Faso tax break that upstate areas would benefit from.

However, Rep. John Katko, who represents an upstate swing district, also cast a "no" vote, and maybe that is why he has yet to issue a formal statement. Same for Long Island Rep. Pete King, the state's longest-serving Republican, who also voted "yes." In his defense, Katko did offer up something that we rarely see in an interview with Straight-forwardness.

"I applaud the White House and leadership for trying to fix it," Katko said, "but this fell far short of what I thought my constituents deserve."

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Needless to say, New York’s Democrats felt similarly to Katko, which is why all of them voted against the measure. Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered some of the strongest opposition, calling out "some representatives in New York" who "have sold their vote and turned their backs on the very constituents they represent."

His official statement continued, "This bill is a targeted assault against our values, punishing New Yorkers because we support women's reproductive rights and including the Collins/Faso amendment which would devastate the state’s health care industry, put millions of New Yorkers at risk, and increase the total cost of this bill on New York to $6.9 billion."

Some local elected officials, like Assemblyman and DNC Vice Chairman Michael Blake, who represents New york’s 79th district in the Bronx, urged a message of compassion, using his own life as an example.

“As a baby, I was born with a heart murmur; my mother is a breast cancer survivor, and I represent an Assembly District with a disproportionate number of residents facing health inequities," Blake said. "It is personal when access to health care is denied to those who are most vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, the once-undocumented immigrant who is now the country's first Dominican-American member of Congress, pulled no punches calling Trumpcare a “gut punch to America.”

Like Katko, the response that resonated most among the Democrats was also the most succinct, as New York’s favorite foul-mouthed firebrand, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (trademark pending), summed it up with a simple message: