Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., believes Republican lawmakers made a “big mistake” by pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act as their first big legislative move at the outset of the Trump administration.
Heller, who is facing a bruising re-election fight in November, argued that Republicans could have moved repeal and replace legislation to the president’s desk if they had waited longer and dealt with tax reform and a transportation package from the start. Republicans, he said, “were not ready” for the battle they waged and paid the price.
“I don’t think we should have done it first,” Heller told the Washington Examiner in an interview Monday. “I think we should have done the economy first. We needed to get some wins. We should have done transportation and the economy first, and then done healthcare after. I think you would have seen a very different result on healthcare.”
“We jumped in with two feet and we were not ready. We weren’t ready, and the results were obvious,” Heller said. “We did eliminate the [individual] mandate. We did get some of the taxes. I did push back and postpone the Cadillac tax and some of those issues, but we made the big mistake of trying to do that first and it was too heavy of a lift.”
“It was a missed opportunity, without a doubt,” Heller added.
The incumbent Republican said that he does not expect GOP leadership to push for a repeal of the law before the November elections simply because there are not enough votes in the GOP caucus. While Republicans control 51 seats, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast the deciding vote to kill a “skinny repeal” of the law, remains in Arizona as he battles glioblastoma. That leaves Republicans with 50 members in Washington at most times.
Heller initially spoke out against two repeal-and-replace efforts last year, including when Republicans were pushing the American Health Care Act, which the House passed in early May of last year, siding with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in the process. Ultimately, he voted for the “skinny repeal” option because it didn’t touch Medicaid and only dealt with mandates in the law.