Ads try to pressure Miami Republicans ahead of healthcare vote

A woman inquires about signing up for the Affordable Care Act on Flagler Street in 2015.
A woman inquires about signing up for the Affordable Care Act on Flagler Street in 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

To witness the political tug-of-war in Congress over repealing the Affordable Care Act, tune into the TV or the radio, or go online, in Miami-Dade County.

Ads for and against — but mostly against — House Republicans’ health plan have gone up over the past week, with two new campaigns launched Tuesday.

Their targets: Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, three moderate Republicans who could help sink the American Health Care Act. The proposal is scheduled for a full House vote Thursday; President Donald Trump warned the GOP in a Capitol Hill meeting Tuesday that opposing the AHCA would cost them in the 2018 elections.

Ros-Lehtinen has already said she’s a “no,” saying that many of her constituents would be left uninsured. (Her district had the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country as of January.)

Diaz-Balart is in the “lean no” column, though he’s not yet made a final decision. Neither has Curbelo, who like Diaz-Balart voted for the bill in committee but expressed “serious concerns” after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the policy would force 14 million Americans to drop or lose their insurance coverage.

Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said Tuesday that the congressman is “encouraged” by changes made to the legislation following the CBO report’s release.

“As of now, these changes substantially increase resources available for lower income and older Americans,” Rodriguez said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “He recognizes there remains more to be done and he’s still working with colleagues in both the House and the Senate to improve the legislation and create a healthcare system that truly puts patients first.”

If 21 out of 237 House Republicans vote no, the bill is expected to fail. McClatchy, the Herald’s parent company, has found at least 31 GOP lawmakers leaning against.

Only one group — American Action Network, a political committee linked to Speaker Paul Ryan — is airing ads urging Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen to vote yes, in spite of Ros-Lehtinen’s stated opposition. “Tell Congress it’s time for better health care,” AAN’s digital ads say.

An earlier batch of AAN ads on TV “thanked” Curbelo for passing the bill out of the House Ways and Means Committee two weeks ago. Those spots, released just last week, were meant to give Curbelo political cover.

Most of the AHCA’s detractors have been hard-line conservatives, like Rep. Ted Yoho of Gainesville, who say the legislation wouldn’t go far enough in undoing former President Barack Obama’s signature policy. The conservative Club for Growth on Tuesday kicked off a $500,000 TV and digital ad campaign against “RyanCare” in 10 congressional districts, including Ros-Lehtinen’s.

Local lawmakers also face pressure to vote no from the opposite end of the political spectrum. The liberal Latino organization NCLR Action Fund — as in the National Council of La Raza — said Tuesday it would target Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and five other lawmakers from Hispanic-majority districts in California, Colorado and Texas with radio and digital ads.

“The Affordable Care Act has provided over 4 million Latinos health insurance and millions more have gained greater access to quality health care,” NCLR Action Fund’s political director, Rafael Collazo, said in a statement.

On Monday, the labor group UNITE HERE listed Curbelo among 15 Republicans from moderate districts whom it would go after with its “Don’t Tax Our Health Care” campaign of digital ads, direct mail, neighborhood canvassing and office protests.

And two more organizations, the local LGBTQ-rights group SAVE and SEIU Florida, plan to rally outside Curbelo’s office Wednesday to implore him to vote no.