Fabiola Santiago

They voted for disastrous Trumpcare over your health. Will they pay at the ballot box?

South Florida congressmen Mario Díaz Balart, left, and Carlos Curbelo voted in favor of the Trumpcare bill.
South Florida congressmen Mario Díaz Balart, left, and Carlos Curbelo voted in favor of the Trumpcare bill. El Nuevo Herald

There’s no issue before Congress more crucial than healthcare.

So why would two Miami-Dade lawmakers whose constituents heavily rely on the affordability of Obamacare for their health insurance vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act?

Partisan politics, ambition, and deal-making maybe. It certainly wasn’t devotion to public service.

The disastrous Trumpcare bill passed by the House of Representatives last week was a vanity project for its namesake billionaire president whose social agenda was only a campaign ploy to pocket the white working poor vote with tribal populist diversions. Likewise, for Republicans who spent President Barack Obama’s two-term tenure in obstructionist mode, “repeal and replace” became an obsession and a matter of conservative pride, consequences to the American public be damned.

The rushed bad bill needed 216 votes to pass; it did so 217-213. Twenty Republicans voted against it, but, inconceivably, South Florida Congressmen Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart voted to repeal Obamacare and replace it with Trump’s American Health Care Act, a far worse option.

Their vote makes pregnancy a pre-existing condition, defunds birth control for those who can’t afford it, and makes access to healthcare more difficult for women. Their vote makes people suffering from serious illness like heart disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS uninsurable. Where there was a cap with Obamacare on how much insurance companies could charge people with these conditions, under the uncaring Trumpcare, pregnant women and the sick can be charged sky-high premiums. Since they can’t afford them, it essentially makes millions of people uninsurable. In the same breath, there’s no Medicaid expansion, so who’s going to pay for the uninsured with life-threatening illnesses?

But, hey, at least our congressmen aren’t lecturing us that Jesus knew all the sick couldn’t be healed or that all that the poor and sick have to do is pray hard enough and they’ll get better. Curbelo will tell you he did a lot of work, hand-wringing and soul searching over his vote. That’s supposed to make us feel better. At least three GOP congressmen who voted for Trumpcare admitted not reading the bill.

Republicans elected in the Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade by the grace of gerrymandering, name recognition, and a Democratic Party that can’t get its messaging act together, Curbelo and Diaz-Balart should have followed Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s lead and voted on behalf of their constiuents.

“I will not support a bill that has the potential to severely harm the health and lives of people in South Florida,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

And despite GOP pressure, she didn’t waver from that position. That’s leadership.

At home, Curbelo and Diaz-Balart play the part of bipartisan, moderate Republicans. You won’t hear them spout the racist GOP rhetoric of northern neighbors. They push for federal funding of local projects and don’t miss an opportunity to go to bat for Cuban and Venezuelan democratic causes. They persist while Trump seems to be shedding the international human rights watchdog role of the United States.

Curbelo has embraced climate change and constantly publicizes his efforts to raise awareness. Hard to avoid converting when you can actually see the sea-level rise all over his district, which extends to Key West. And Diaz-Balart, who represents swaths of Doral, Hialeah, Miami Lakes, west to the Everglades and north to Clewiston, earned moderate stripes by embracing immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for DREAMer children.

But in Congress, they vote for the GOP agenda to the detriment of their constituents. Voters need to stop handing them the “moderate” pass. These two could’ve made a big difference in healthcare. Obamacare wasn’t perfect, but it was far from collapsing. Republicans could have scored a victory improving it without leaving behind the principle that access to healthcare should be for all, not just for the wealthy, healthy and insurable.

Now the bill is before the Senate and some are hoping another Republican from Miami, ultra-conservative Obama foe Sen. Marco Rubio, will step up to the plate for Floridians.

Good luck with that vote.