With Republican plans to gut the nation’s health care system back on track, we shouldn’t forget the important role that Maine’s own Bruce Poliquin has played in this effort – no matter how hard he tries to make us.

For two months, Maine’s 2nd District congressman has ducked reporters and constituents, trying to put space between himself and what proved to be a crucial vote he cast for a bill that would take $800 billion out of health care for the poor and middle class and give it to the rich in the form of a massive tax cut.

While everyone else in Washington has been debating the wisdom of disrupting a sixth of the U.S. economy without a single public hearing, or the morality of denying medical treatment to fellow Americans because they are poor or sick, Poliquin has skirted the issue, scurrying away from anybody who wanted to engage him on it, using earbuds and staffers to get between him and the people who stand to be hurt by his decision.

Then on Tuesday, the congressman switched tactics. Instead of running for the door, he forthrightly tweeted his position for all the Twitterverse to see: “I will not support (Affordable Care Act) repeal with no replacement. My full statement: (link)”

It sounded pretty unequivocal, even with the double negative. But when you read his statement, you see that “The Great Equivocator” has not lost his magic.

Poliquin is not saying that he regrets his vote on the disastrous House bill, which was projected to cut health insurance for 23 million Americans, including 117,000 in Maine.


He’s only saying that he would not support one possible iteration of a potential Senate bill that has been discussed, which would repeal the ACA now and come up with a replacement later – the same public policy theory that brought you nuclear waste depositories.

Guess what? That’s a pretty safe place for Poliquin to be.

For one thing, there probably aren’t 50 votes in the Senate for such a harebrained scheme, so Poliquin may never have to take his principled stand.

And for another, if it comes down to it, they don’t really need him anymore.

The Republican “no” votes on the House bill were not all from moderates who were appalled by their colleagues’ recklessness.

At least three came from hard-liners who were disappointed that the bill didn’t cut even more. They would love to see a straight repeal bill, so Poliquin is free to vote the other way. He’s already done his damage.


Since he’s committed to a “no” vote on an imaginary bill, this would be a good time to review what he actually voted “yes” for on May 4, 2017, when the House bill squeaked across the finish line with only one vote more than the minimum required for passage.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the American Health Care Act would cost 14 million Americans their coverage in 2018 if it became law, climbing to 23 million newly uninsured by 2026.

In May, during a bizarre “press conference” in which questions were limited to TV reporters, Poliquin claimed that the bill would affect only the 7 percent of Mainers who buy insurance on the individual market.

He was wrong. He was so obviously wrong that we have to assume he was wrong on purpose. There’s a name for that. It’s called lying.

According to the CBO and every independent analysis, the Republican plan would affect almost everyone. It pays for massive tax cuts by capping federal support for Medicaid, the program for the poor and disabled.

The plan Poliquin backed would not just phase out the 11 million newly eligible people living in states that expanded Medicaid, but would also shrink the federal share of traditional Medicaid, known here as MaineCare, used to pay for, among other things, two-thirds of nursing home patients, 40 percent of all births and almost all children in poverty.


Cuts like these would put rural hospitals and other providers out of business or force them to shift costs to other payers, driving up premiums for private health insurance.

So, Rep. Poliquin’s brave tweet notwithstanding, it’s a little late for him to act like he’s standing up for the people back home.

His feint to the center is significant in one way, however. It shows that word must be getting through to him that his constituents don’t want to pay even more for their health insurance or lose it altogether. People are paying attention to the details of these bills, and they are not falling for the cheap slogans this time.

Poliquin is going to need more than a bold-sounding tweet to wriggle out of this one.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor at the Portland Press Herald. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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