Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart voted Thursday for the American Health Care Act, the House GOP’s controversial proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Both congressmen had refused to divulge their positions on the legislation ahead of the high-profile vote. Their districts have among the highest Obamacare enrollment rates in the country; Curbelo in particular is politically vulnerable in the Democratic-leaning 26th district.
“I refuse to condemn my community and the country to a health care system burdened by ever-increasing costs, fewer options, government threats and fines against citizens, rampant fraud, inefficiency, and mismanagement,” Curbelo said in a statement. “So along with my colleagues, I’ve been working on legislation to create a truly patient-centered healthcare system where every American has access to quality care.”
Curbelo highlighted improvements from the original version of the AHCA, which was pulled before a vote in April because GOP leaders knew it would fail. That time, Curbelo refused to take a position on the bill.
Since then, Curbelo said, lawmakers secured $38 billion to help more vulnerable patients get access to health insurance, and $1.5 billion in Low Income Pool money for public safety-net hospitals, like Miami’s Jackson Memorial.
Still, he noted the legislation continues to need work, and said he’s reached out to the Senate, which will now take up the proposal.
“Today’s vote is just a step in the legislative process for this bill — not the end of it,” Curbelo said. We have worked hard to improve the legislation, but we have a long way to go.”
His spokeswoman said Curbelo was making a “game-time decision” on the vote. But his office released pre-taped video statements in English and Spanish explaining his decision moments after he voted yes. His staff later said Curbelo prepared two sets of statements to be able to provide an immediate explanation of his decision once he made it.
Curbelo and Diaz-Balart’s local colleague, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who announced her retirement from Congress earlier this week, voted no, as she had promised. She was the only Florida Republican to do so, along with all Florida Democrats.