Even as the U.S. Senate delayed a planned procedural vote Tuesday on a controversial Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, the proposal was roiling Florida's political landscape ahead of the 2018 elections.
Democrats running for the Senate and in the state's governor's race hammered away at the GOP, suggesting that they saw a chance to go on the offensive over an issue that has dogged them for years. Republicans running in the marquee contests, meanwhile, seemed to be doing everything they could to take a definitive stand on the legislation.
At the heart of the controversy is a bill that, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would lead to 22 million fewer Americans having health insurance in 2026 than would be the case under current law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., unveiled the bill last week as part of the GOP's longstanding promise to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. McConnell and other GOP leaders had hoped to advance the bill with a key vote Wednesday, but pulled the plug after it became clear the move would fail.
By then, Democrats were already blasting away at Republican candidates in Florida over the measure, underscoring changes in Medicaid spending and the reductions in tax credits for some low-income workers. The attacks suggested Democrats now see Obamacare, which had generally hurt the party since 2010 but has recently increased in popularity, as a net positive.
Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Democrat who's running for governor, labeled the Republican bill "heartless" as she delivered more than 4,000 petitions against "Trumpcare," named for President Donald Trump, to the Florida Capitol office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Graham also blasted term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott for not agreeing to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and expressed hope that the GOP bill wouldn't pass.
"But if that does happen, then we're going to need an even better governor here in Florida," she said. "The one we've had ... should not be able to sleep at night."