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Among Minn. GOP in D.C. , support for GOP healthcare measure, some hope for improvements

By Maya Rao

Minneapolis Star Tribune

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is defending his heavily scrutinized vote for the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act, calling it a necessary step to control healthcare costs.

“The reality is that unless we address rising cost, the market’s going to get worse for families,” Paulsen told the Star Tribune on Tuesday.

Paulsen and Minnesota’s two other Republican House members, U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis, all voted for the bill Republicans dubbed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). President Trump seized on its passage late last week as a needed legislative victory; the measure is now in the hands of the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, which is likely to significantly rework it.

“This is not a final anything,” Emmer said on Wednesday morning. “This is just the beginning.”

While praising the measure, Emmer said he considered it “incredibly inappropriate” for Republican lawmakers to celebrate at the White House Rose Garden afterward, where Trump was on hand.

“It’s about respect for your adversaries … I thought it was wrong,” Emmer said, saying he’s unhappy with partisanship around the issue from both sides.

Lewis, the newest Minnesotan in Congress, could be seen in the crowd of Congress members present at the White House celebration that Emmer decried.

Lewis said he sees a disconnect between criticism from Democrats and some in the media toward the AHCA and the health care struggles that families and business owners have shared with him. Many are facing big premium increases under the Affordable Care Act, he said.

“I’m getting as many plaudits as I am criticisms for pushing healthcare reform,” Lewis said.

Last week’s vote generated a wave of criticism toward many Republican lawmakers. For Paulsen, it’s likely to stand among the most controversial votes of his career: his western Hennepin County district has voted Democrat for president the last three elections, and after the vote several thousand people bombarded his Facebook page with mostly critical posts, some with very harsh terms.