MacArthur in Democrats’ Sights After Passage of GOP Health Care Bill

May 10, 2017

As just about everybody in America except cave-dwelling hermits and tiny babies knows, the House of Representatives passed a bill last week to repeal and replace Obamacare, keeping a years-long pledge to their voters.

President Trump and House Republicans immediately celebrated at a Rose Garden party. Democrats, though, also celebrated, because they feel the Obamacare replacement will prove so inadequate, forcing millions of people back into the ranks of the uninsured, that it will propel them into the majority in the House in the 2018 elections.

Time will tell which party celebrated prematurely. Who knows if healthcare will even be the major issue facing the country in November 2018? There’s a decent chance the GOP’s American Health Care Act will die in the Senate. Maybe we’ll be in the throes of a second Korean War in 2018; perhaps the country will be in an economic recession considering we haven’t technically been in one since June 2009 and the average time between recessions in this country since 1929 has been four years and two months.

Still, right now, Democrats have some slight proof that the Republicans have threatened their own current 238-to-193 (with four vacancies due to resignations) House majority. The Cook Political Report, a respected independent, non-partisan online newsletter that analyzes elections and campaigns for the House, Senate, governors’ offices and the presidency, was quick to react to the May 4 vote in the House.

The very next day The Cook Political Report changed its 2018 outlook for 20 House seats throughout the country, and in all 20 cases it moved its needle toward the Democrats.

“Republicans’ 217-213 passage of the American Health Care Act on Thursday guarantees Democrats will have at least one major on-the-record vote to exploit in the next elections,” wrote David Wasserman of Cook. “Although it’s the first of potentially many explosive votes, House Republicans’ willingness to spend political capital on a proposal that garnered the support of just 17 percent of the public in a March Quinnipiac poll is consistent with past scenarios that have generated a midterm wave.

“Not only did dozens of Republicans in marginal districts just hitch their names to an unpopular piece of legislation, Democrats just received another valuable candidate recruitment tool. In fact, Democrats aren’t so much recruiting candidates as they are overwhelmed by a deluge of eager newcomers, including doctors and veterans in traditionally red seats who have no political record for the GOP to attack – almost a mirror image of 2010.”

In 2010, Republicans gained 63 seats in the House, the largest seat change in any midterm election since 1938.

It isn’t surprising that one of the 20 House districts that shifted to the left on the Cook gauge was New Jersey’s 3rd District, which includes the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township. Its current representative, Republican Tom MacArthur, not only voted for the legislation, but had fashioned the key amendment bearing his name that breathed new life into the bill after it had failed to attract enough Republican votes to even reach a floor vote back in March.

On Friday, The Cook Political Report moved the 3rd District from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

“The last few cycles, former insurance executive MacArthur’s personal wealth (he’s one of the richest members of the House, with an estimated net worth of at least $30.8 million according to has scared top-tier Democrats away from running,” wrote Wasserman. “But his new role as the architect of House Republicans’ healthcare compromise could make him a target. Rhodes Scholar Andy Kim, who served as an ISIS expert in the Obama White House, is moving back to Burlington County to run, but Democrats badly need to make inroads into Ocean County to have a chance.”

Now, it is important to note that Cook barely moved its needle. “Solid Republican” is the peg farthest to the right. Cook describes “Solid” as “These races are not considered competitive and are not likely to become closely contested.” “Likely,” on the other hand, means “These seats are not considered competitive at this point but have the potential to become engaged.” That’s a far cry from “Lean,” those races “considered competitive races but one party has an advantage” or “Toss-Up: These are the most competitive races; either party has a good chance of winning.”

Still, the 2018 3rd District race could be far more interesting than in 2016, when MacArthur easily disposed of Democrat Frederick John Lavergne, beating him with 194,596 votes to Lavergne’s 127,526.

Kim – or any other Democratic candidate for MacArthur’s seat – will surely get much more outside help than had Lavergne. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has set its sights squarely on MacArthur’s back.

“Representative MacArthur just voted to increase your health insurance premiums and deductibles, toss 24 million Americans off of their insurance, and to slap you with an age tax if you’re age 50 to 64 – and robbed Medicare while doing it,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan after the passage of the repeal-and-replace legislation in the House. “If that’s not bad enough, MacArthur also voted to let health insurance companies charge you more if you have a preexisting condition. That means if you, your kids or your parents are sick with cancer, diabetes or any other illness, insurance will not be affordable.”

Lujan went on to to say MacArthur was the “main architect of this cruel bill.”

Of course, voting against the American Health Care Act wasn’t a guarantee that the DCCC wouldn’t attack. Frank LoBiondo, who represents New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, voted no on the legislation. The DCCC attacked him anyway.

“There is no question that this bill will cause incredible pain for the hardworking Americans, particularly those fighting to make ends meet, and Representative LoBiondo’s role in this healthcare repeal will haunt him through election day,” said Lujan.

But LoBiondo voted against it! What role? The DCCC statement went on to explain why it was still going after him.

“In January, Representative Frank LoBiondo voted to begin repealing the Affordable Care Act and paved the way for this disastrous repeal and ripoff health care bill. Without that bill, the repeal of the health care law could not have moved forward.”

As an example of how things change, MacArthur, now one of the names most associated with the Republican legislation, voted no in January.

— Rick Mellerup

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McDonald | May 11, 2017 17:15

It's time to get someone who actually lives in the Third District to represent us. Enough of this opportunistic carpetbagger from Morris County.

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