GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio under pressure on health bill


COLUMBUS, Ohio — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman continued to face intense pressure back home Tuesday to oppose the Senate’s GOP health care bill.

The Ohio Republican has been 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.

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had wanted to bring the bill to a vote before the July 4th recess but he announced Tuesday afternoon he would delay a vote while GOP leadership works toward getting enough votes.

Portman easily won re-election in 2016, so he’s got some time and political cushion to await an alternative bill. But GOP leaders are eager now to replace the Affordable Care Act.

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, also hoped to sway Portman’s vote — with a vigil at his Cleveland office on Tuesday and a flyover at Friday night’s Cleveland Indians game that featured a banner reading, “Senator Portman: Trumpcare Hurts Women.”

Portman was also 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. The spots urged Portman and senators from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and West Virginia to protect Medicaid, contending program cuts in the Senate bill would jeopardize 87,000 Ohio jobs.

Portman is under pressure from labor unions, as well. The Ohio AFL-CIO staged a Statehouse rally Tuesday against the Senate bill, urging Portman to stop “playing games” with health care as they spun a “Wheel of Misfortune” landing on different health care scenarios they said would be affected.

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 Obamacare law targeted by congressional health care changes.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press

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