Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times
Tuesday, July 4, 2017 | 2 a.m.
If Republicans could legally waterboard Sen. Dean Heller right now to get him to abandon Nevadans on health care, you’d get the sense they’d be filling buckets as fast as they could.
Heller is under fierce attack by those who want an end to Obamacare and don’t care how many people they have to hurt to do it. That includes the Trump administration, which, according to the New York Times, called in Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn to contact Heller and let him have it.
There’s motion among conservatives to challenge him in 2018, with perennial right-wing candidate Danny Tarkanian telling CNN he was considering making a run at Heller’s seat and saying, “A lot of people are looking to find somebody to run against Heller, so there’s a lot of chatter out there.” Republican Trump supporters went so far as to run ads bashing Heller, but then they stopped after Heller and other GOP leaders complained.
With friends like these …
Sad, because Heller is being punished for doing the right thing — having the backbone to break ranks on his party’s nasty piece of health care legislation.
Let’s get this straight: As shown by Tarkanian’s comments, there are Republicans in Nevada who want to strip health care from their neighbors. It’s as simple as that.
If Tarkanian runs, no voter should forget he has declared that he wants to deny health care to Nevadans and put his party ahead of his state. It’s one thing for billionaires to say average people don’t deserve health care — that’s almost to be expected, sadly. But to have a potential candidate for the Senate appear so eager to strip health coverage from hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Nevadans he is supposed to represent disqualifies him for office instantly.
Heller’s job is to represent Nevadans, and they’re counting on him to stand up to bullies and protect them.
The measure would leave 22 million Americans without health care and would increase premiums for older people, according to the Congressional Budget Office, meaning it was only marginally less awful than the House version.
It would significantly dial back annual increases in Medicaid spending, part of the reason that Gov. Brian Sandoval came out against it and urged Heller to do the same. Under Sandoval, an early adopter of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion has helped reduce the number of uninsured Nevadans by about half.
“It doesn’t protect Nevadans on Medicaid and the most vulnerable Nevadans,” Heller said of the Senate plan.
So Heller deserves credit for going against the grain — but only partial credit. The real test awaits when the Senate votes on the measure, something that has yet to be scheduled.
That’s where things get dicey, as Heller said he wouldn’t support any bill that was bad for Nevada but was open to negotiation on the current legislation.
Whether Senate leadership is willing to mold the bill into something reasonable remains to be seen, but Heller only has two choices on anything resembling the current version — stick up for Nevadans and vote against it, or prove himself to be a Trump stooge and vote for it.
A no vote would allow Heller to show true courage and leadership, traits that are woefully lacking among the nation’s political leaders.
In some ways, Heller’s party did him a favor by crafting a piece of legislation that was so similar to the House bill. Given that polls show Americans detest that bill, Heller has some cover. When several senators joined him in opposition — Jerry Moran from Kansas, Rob Portman from Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia — that cover got a bit thicker.
Heller should take it, keep focusing on what’s best for Nevada and stay the course on his opposition. We’d urge Nevadans to let Heller know they agree with him.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
8930 W. Sunset Road, Suite 230
Las Vegas, NV 89148
Bruce Thompson Federal Building
400 S. Virginia St., Suite 738
Reno, NV 89501
324 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Email (via online form)