President Donald Trump warned Republicans they would be punished by voters at home if they failed to support the GOP’s health care legislation. But probably not Mark Sanford.
According to Republican officials at the local and county level in his South Carolina district, Sanford has support for his stance against a bill that he thinks is too “watered down.”
“Congressman Sanford has been a fiscal conservative and kind of a watchdog for the taxpayers for quite a long time, so I appreciate his position of seeking a better outcome than the one that has been presented,” said Joe Iaco, a member of the Greater Bluffton Republican Club. “There’s a lot of people in his district that support him in that effort.”
Jim Riordan, GOP chairman in Beaufort County, said people of the first district expect a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act, exactly what Sanford is seeking.
“We need to change, repeal Obamacare, re-craft a bill that is more economical for the average American, provide coverage with rational deductibles and I think is more free-market based,” he said. “Rep. Sanford is clearly representing those interests.”
Views like these from allies at home could give Sanford confidence after Trump, in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, warned House Republicans that if they didn’t vote for the bill, “I’m gonna come after you big time.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer doubled down on the threat.
“There’s going to be a price to be paid,” Spicer said of Republicans who don’t support the bill. “But it’s going to be with their own voters, and they’re going to have to go back and explain to them why they made a commitment to them, and then didn’t follow through.”
Sanford has been a consistent critic of the current GOP plan. As part of the conservative Freedom Caucus, Sanford joined Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at an early-March press conference to state his opposition to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan, known as the American Health Care Act. Sanford instead advocated for a bill he pushed forward in the last Congress, named Obamacare Replacement Act.
“We have a repeal bill that was fully supported by House and Senate Republicans and made its way to President Obama’s desk,” Sanford said at the conference. “As Republicans, we decried the fact that he would veto it. Why would we now water down this same bill and send a new and weaker bill to President Trump?”
Sanford eventually became one of three conservatives who voted no on Ryan’s bill in the House Budget Committee.
Democrats and healthcare advocates in South Carolina are pleased with Sanford’s opposition to the GOP plan too, but certainly not for the same reasons. They want South Carolina’s full congressional delegation – all Republican except for one member – to ensure low costs and more coverage.
“Sanford is not opposing the bill because he likes the Affordable Care Act,” said Steve Skardon, executive director of The Palmetto Project, a nonprofit organization that runs enrollment outreach for the ACA in South Carolina. “He’s got his own view about how it oughta be implemented. The challenge is that most people in South Carolina have gotten very distorted information about what the Affordable Care Act is, who it’s affected by and how it helps South Carolina.”
As of Feb. 2, 194,440 South Carolina citizens have coverage purchased through the federal exchange under the ACA.