On the day before President Donald Trump’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare is put to a vote, New York City’s only Republican congressman, Dan Donovan, was still torn between GOP loyalty and protecting the healthcare that many of his constituents rely on.
“Congressman Donovan is currently undecided on how he will vote,” his spokesperson told Metro Wednesday afternoon, “but has very serious concerns about the proposal.”
A few hours later, he reached a decision: He announced he’d vote “no” on the bill.
The move was not made without coaxing; activists urging Donovan to vote down Trump’s American Health Care Act had hounded him.
“Over the past month, I’ve met with all the stakeholders this bill would affect: hospitals, doctors, nurses, community health centers, and the residents of the 11th congressional district who have raised valid concerns with the current bill,” he wrote in an op-ed sent to the Staten Island Advance simultaneously with his announcement.
The decision to vote against the bill could serve as a demonstration of how activism can directly impact politics, local opponents of Trump’s proposal said.
The grassroots group Fight Back Bay Ridge did everything in their power — from scheduling private meetings with him and producing a documentary style video — to persuade him not to toe the party line.
Mallory McMahon, who founded the group with her mother in January, took a train from New York to Washington Monday to meet with Donovan. When they met he had just emerged from a meeting in which Trump threatened the jobs of Republicans who didn’t support the bill.
“I asked him not to be a good German,” McMahon told Metro. “I implored him to be a brave Republican — who would stand on the hill and not play ball with partisanship.”
Despite the fact that CD 11, which includes Bay Ridge Brooklyn and Staten Island, is the only district in New York City to vote overwhelmingly for Trump, it is among the nation’s top ten districts with the most individuals who stand to lose healthcare under Trump’s measures, according to a report by the Democratic National Committee.
“You can tick down the list. There’s a huge elderly population, there’s an opioid crisis in Staten Island, and 78,000 people now covered under the Medicaid expansion will lose care,” Courtney Scott from Bay Ridge Fights Back told Metro.
Donovan’s primary concern was a New York-specific Medicaid clause, called the Collins Amendment, that would exempt state counties from funding Medicaid, placing the entire burden on city taxpayers, his office explained Wednesday evening in announcing the decision.
Another compelling reason for Donovan’s decision is the bill’s potential impact on the large number of seniors in his district, pointing to a study from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that they would see a 25 percent increase in insurance premiums.
Yet another reason for Donovan’s decision was in consideration of the biggest employer in his district — the hospital systems — which opposes the legislation for its threat to jobs and millions more in expenses linked to Medicaid changes.
The fate of Trump’s health care bill on Thursday is said to be imperiled on more than one front, despite Republican control of Congress: Moderates who are concerned for those who rely on Obamacare, and a hardline group of 35 house conservatives called the House Freedom Caucus who vow to vote down the bill for not going far enough to undo Obamacare and reduce insurance premiums.