The Congressman who wrote Trumpcare just got the grilling he deserves

If the constituents at a town hall hosted by Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey) have their way, he’ll be sent packing in 2018.

MacArthur’s decision to hold a town hall is more than a little ballsy, given that he was the chief author of the revised Republican healthcare proposal that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The congressman once fled reporters’ questions about the amendment shortly after submitting it.

Since the original bill had only 17 percent support among voters nationwide, and with his additions generating so much press, MacArthur likely knew going into tonight’s town hall that people would have tough questions. But he likely didn’t realize just how brutal the night would be for him.

Rep. MacArthur wrote an amendment to the GOP healthcare proposal that allowed states to have the final decision in what would be deemed “essential” coverage for insurance plans offered in their individual markets. The proposed change came in opposition to regulations under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that required insurance companies everywhere cover pre-existing conditions, prescription drugs, mental health treatment, drug rehabilitation, emergency room visits, pediatric care, maternity care, and other “essential” procedures. In the decade between 2017 and 2026, the Republican alternative to Obamacare would remove an estimated 24 million people from their insurance plans.

At first, MacArthur attempted to gain sympathy from voters, talking about his special needs daughter, Gracie, who died at age 11 in 1996. MacArthur recounted this story at one point to Newark Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran, who lost a young son to cancer. In a recent article, Moran wrote about how he and MacArthur had a personal heart-to-heart moment in his Washington office, bonding over losing their children to health complications:

This is a man, I thought, who would never be caught in the stale ideological debate about health care. Republican or not, I felt certain he would be no part of a plan to strip coverage from millions of families.

And then he voted for the first repeal.

And when that flopped, he did something worse: He saved it by making it more harsh, allowing states to opt out of the key protections for those with pre-existing conditions. He was the supposed moderate leader, reaching out to the right.

With this move, MacArthur loses any claim to being a moderate. But he has new status in the party, new friends on the right. He swears that’s not why he did this. But the puny concessions he won do little to mitigate the damage of this bill.

When Rep. MacArthur’s mentioned his daughter, he was immediately interrupted by a member of the audience who asked him if he had the money to cover his daughter’s healthcare procedures (he likely did, given that the former insurance CEO has net assets of more than $30 million, making him the richest member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation). He then asked the audience to be respectful, with another audience member asking if he could disrespect the Congressman in honor of the people who would die as the result of his bill.

MacArthur attempted to justify his unpopular amendment to his constituents, arguing that the health insurance market under Obamacare was resulting in higher prices. He then sarcastically asked constituents if they preferred single-payer healthcare, prompting the room to erupt into chants of “SINGLE PAYER.” The Washington Post’s David Weigel also captured an exchange between MacArthur and a constituent who asked him directly about rape being a pre-existing condition under his bill. Not surprisingly, he didn’t receive a yes or no answer.

Aside from healthcare, the biggest question from constituents at the town hall was about the Trump/Russia investigation. MacArthur was met with questions from angry constituents who demanded to know why he wasn’t putting country over party. When Rep. MacArthur argued that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation was “moving forward” with both parties working together, the crowd couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

The crowd inside and outside was massive, as constituents across the district who heard about the town hall but couldn’t get inside held protests outside, largely about MacArthur’s complicity in letting Trump off easy for his alleged collaboration with Russia, and for his authoring of the particularly austere healthcare bill.

 

Tom Cahill is a senior editor for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook by clicking here.