Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to vote against the House GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, becoming the first Florida Republican to reject the legislation outright.
“After studying the impact of this proposed legislation on my district and speaking with many of my constituents, I have decided to vote no on the bill as currently written," she said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "The bill’s consequences for South Florida are clear: too many of my constituents will lose insurance and there will be less funds to help the poor and elderly with their healthcare."
Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district, which includes Southeast Miami-Dade County, had the largest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country -- about 96,300 -- as of January, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that some 14 million people would lose or drop coverage by 2018 under the proposed American Health Care Act, which has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.
With her opposition, Ros-Lehtinen is breaking with fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who last week voted for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee. Both lawmakers represent Democratic-leaning districts won by Hillary Clinton.
Florida Democrats have universally opposed the plan — “It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” Sen. Bill Nelson said — but the party accused Ros-Lehtinen of political pandering.
“After voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times without a replacement plan — including as recently as January — it’s clear that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen makes her decisions in Washington D.C. based on political calculation and self-preservation, not what is best for the people of South Florida,” Javier Gamboa, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement.
Curbelo hasn't commented on the CBO report. On Monday, American Action Network, a Republican political group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads in Miami to give Curbelo cover for his support.
The third Miami Republican in the House, Mario Diaz-Balart, is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report and has some "concerns," his spokeswoman said.
Some Florida Republicans have questioned the House plan on conservative grounds, arguing it remains too interventionist in its approach to the insurance market. Others have said it's a good first step that still needs work.
Ros-Lehtinen is still not a fan of the existing law but said its replacement needs to be bipartisan and more humane.
"I voted to repeal Obamacare many times because it was not the right fix for our broken healthcare system and did not live up to its promise to the American people but this plan is not the replacement South Florida needs," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We should work together to write a bipartisan bill that works for our community and our nation without hurting the elderly and disadvantaged among us."
Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, for the Miami Herald
This post has been updated.