Conservative Group Hits Republican for Breaking 'Repeal Obamacare' Pledge

Meet the first Republicans to vote against repealing Obamacare.

The House of Representatives took its 67th vote to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act yesterday. Its newest Republican members had never been given a chance to vote "hell yes" on the question, and most of them did so. Three of them did not—Maine's Bruce Poliquin, New York's John Katko, and Illinois' Robert Dold.

There's no mystery about why. All of them won districts that Barack Obama had carried in 2008 and 2012. He took Poliquin's rural Maine seat by 7 points, Katko's upstate New York seat by 16 points, and Dold's Chicago suburb seat by 17 points. Democrats expect to compete for all of those seats in 2016, with Illinois-born former New York Senator Hillary Clinton leading their ticket.

So, for the first time in a long time, there are Republicans who have to finesse their less-than-total rejection of "Obamacare." After the vote, Poliquin told Roll Call that he wanted to end the law but fretted about pure repeal. "I need to see a tangible, free-market replacement and this bill does not give us that," he said. "I need to see how we’re gonna fix this and not just be someone who votes for the 56th time to repeal this."

Poliquin's problem is that he won office after telling Republican groups that he, too, would rip out Obamacare by the metaphorical roots. He told the Campaign for Liberty, founded in 2008 by former Texas Representative Ron Paul, that he would "support and cast every vote for legislation that will repeal or defund Obamacare." And he didn't.

"Representative Poliquin clearly does not take the promises he made to his constituents seriously if it took him less than one month to violate his own pledge by voting against repealing Obamacare," wrote Campaign for Liberty spokeswoman Megan Stiles in an e-mail. "Campaign for Liberty will be sure to let his constituents know how little he values his own word, much less the opinions of the voters who elected him."

Katko, who won a landslide over Democrat Dan Maffei (who subsequently retired from electoral politics), had an easier time of it. "If and when a replacement is ready, my vote will be to repeal Obamacare," he told reporter Mark Weiner.

During the campaign, he'd finessed this: He wanted to "fix the disaster of Obamacare," as he put it in a video, but admitted that the law had "very good wellness aspects." Dold had towed the same line, promising not to completely repeal the ACA, after casting several votes to do just that in his initial 2011-2012 term.

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