GOP Sen. Rob Portman, pummeled, says no on health bill

Posted at 12:59 PM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-27 19:04:17-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman announced his opposition to the current Senate health care bill on Tuesday, after days of political pummeling that ended with the vote delayed.

The Ohio Republican issued his statement only after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed a vote on the bill.

Portman was among senators who faced intense pressure back home to oppose the measure. He was subjected to baseball game flyovers, demonstrations, television ads and a verbal onslaught by GOP Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who views the bill’s Medicaid cuts as harmful to America’s most vulnerable citizens.

Portman said in a statement that he’s repeatedly said the Affordable Care Act wasn’t working.

“I am committed to creating a better health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society,” he said in a statement. “The Senate draft before us includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic.”

Vice President Mike Pence planned to push back Wednesday with a visit to Cleveland in support of the bill. That caught Portman, who represents a closely divided battleground state, in the crosshairs of the high-stakes intraparty fight.

McConnell had wanted to bring the bill to a vote before the July Fourth recess but he announced Tuesday afternoon he would delay a vote while GOP leadership works toward getting enough votes.

Kasich directed pointed comments against the bill during a joint appearance in Washington on Tuesday with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, calling it “unacceptable.”

“No one should think that I have any joy in being able to work against the leadership of my own party on this legislation,” Kasich said.

“But maybe JFK said it best: Sometimes my party asks too much,” the governor said in paraphrasing the late president.

Kasich said he’s shared his concerns with Portman “a million times.”

“I’ve told him how important I think all this is,” Kasich said. “I don’t cast his vote. I don’t get any sense.”

UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy organization, held a protest vigil at Portman’s Cleveland office Tuesday. The group also flew a banner over Friday night’s Cleveland Indians game reading: “Senator Portman: Trumpcare Hurts Women.”

Portman also was targeted in a seven-figure broadcast and digital ad buy by the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, a trade association for Medicaid-affiliated health plans that contended the Senate plan jeopardized 87,000 Ohio jobs.

Labor unions also upped the temperature on Portman, saying at a Statehouse rally that he was “playing games” with health care.

In their defense of the bill, Pence and President Donald Trump have been sure to feature Ohio residents in a series of events featuring “victims” of the Affordable Care Act targeted by congressional health care changes.