Illinois' 7 GOP congressmen vote for Obamacare repeal, state's 11 Democrats vote no

All seven Republican congressmen from Illinois on Thursday voted for their party's historic bill that seeks to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act, including two suburban lawmakers who've faced protests on the issue back home.

While the details of the measure are sure to change when the Senate tackles health care, the political symbolism of the House vote was significant.

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton said his vote "responsibly repeals and replaces Obamacare," even as a pair of potential Democratic challengers next year assailed his position as taking away health coverage from millions.

Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano emphasized that the bill "is not the final product," but said the Affordable Care Act needed to be fixed. "We've got to do something to give people some choices and give people some options," he said outside the House chamber.

In Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner called the Affordable Care Act "deeply flawed" but said the bill that passed the U.S. House "continues to be of deep concern" because it did not address questions about rising premiums and shrinking choices for those in the health insurance marketplace or the impact on 650,000 residents who got coverage through Medicaid expansion.

Potential 2018 Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker said Rauner needed "to break his silence" and stand up for Illinois residents who could lose their health coverage. Another Democratic governor hopeful, Evanston state Sen. Daniel Biss, said that under the Republican plan, "billionaires like Rauner receive millions in tax cuts while insurance companies are allowed to profit off of people's sickness and misfortune."

All 11 Illinois Democrats in Congress voted against the bill. Democrats complained hearings had not been held and that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had not analyzed the cost and impact of the version voted on Thursday. During debate, Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson called the ramifications of the measure "tragic."

"Let's kill this horrific bill and work together to make health insurance affordable and accessible for all," said Kelly, who had warned her seven Republican colleagues from the state that if they voted yes, they would "own" the results of a measure she said would cause Illinoisans to lose either insurance or jobs.

Cook County expanded its health care program for the poor through Medicaid, and Democratic County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the county health and hospitals system could lose between $300 million and $800 million in funding.

"Make no mistake, this vote is guaranteed to result in more uninsured in Cook County requiring hospitals to make difficult decisions such as cutting service, laying off staff or worse, closing their doors," she said.

After the vote, scores of House Republicans went to the White House to celebrate with President Donald Trump. At least one Illinois Republican, Rep. Mike Bost of Downstate Murphysboro, attended.

Reps. Roskam, Hultgren and Adam Kinzinger of Channahon in Will County did not attend, however. The three hadn't publicly announced how they would vote beforehand, reflecting the tricky political calculations involved. All three have been sharp critics of former Democratic President Barack Obama's health reforms. They've also been the target of angry protests and pressure tactics from supporters of Obamacare.

GOP lawmakers on the fence were crucial to the measure's passage. With no support from Democrats, Republicans could have afforded only 22 defections if they wanted to advance their health care plan to the Senate. The bill passed 217-213, with 20 Republican defections and one Republican not voting.

Kinzinger declined an interview request. His office later put out a statement saying the GOP bill "puts patients back in charge of their own health care, and includes several layers of protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions." But he also noted the legislation isn't finished and there are "many improvements to make."

The House now heads home for an 11-day recess. Leaving the floor, Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston said she was "absolutely" certain her party would retake the House in 2018 due to the health care vote.

"We're taking names," she said. "Politically, they've signed a death notice. A very politically hazardous vote."

But defeating either Roskam or Hultgren will be a tall order for Democrats.

Roskam, in his sixth term, represents the 6th Congressional District which is centered in DuPage County. He coasted to re-election last fall with 59 percent of the vote, even as his district voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump.

Democratic candidate Suzyn Price, a former Naperville school board member, called Roskam's vote "an unconscionable, despicable act." Another Democrat, Barrington Hills plan commissioner Kelly Mazeski, used Thursday's vote to announce her candidacy. She ripped Roskam's vote as taking away coverage from people with pre-existing conditions.

Hultgren also was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote. Now in his fourth term, he was swept into Congress in 2010's tea party wave. His 14th Congressional District takes in parts of six suburban counties and stretches west to DeKalb, and Trump carried it by about 4 percentage points.

Potential Democratic challenger Victor Swanson of Batavia said in a statement that Hultgren had done the "unthinkable" and "sided with Donald Trump and (GOP House Speaker) Paul Ryan" instead of those he represents.

kskiba@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @KatherineSkiba

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