Former GOP congressman who wanted to eliminate Obamacare seeks comeback

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Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin backed Donald Trump's bill to strip health insurance from up to 117,000 Mainers.

A former GOP congressman who lost his seat in 2018 after voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act announced Wednesday that he wants a rematch in 2022. And he suggested he will again try to make his opposition to Obamacare an issue in the race.

Republican Bruce Poliquin used his announcement to attack "liberal politicians with extreme beliefs" and Democrats pushing a "drive to socialism." He accused the moderate Democratic incumbent Jared Golden of "empowering people like Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) by keeping their party in power."

"Government promised less expensive health care," he complained, in an apparent reference to the Affordable Care Act, "yet the prices keep going up."

Poliquin was elected in Maine's competitive 2nd Congressional District in 2014 and 2016, pledging to "do what is RIGHT in Congress to help our hard-working 2nd District families and small businesses, not what is politically comfortable."

But Poliquin, who voted with former President Donald Trump 96.8% of the time in the 115th Congress, lost his seat in 2018 to Democrat Jared Golden.

Golden focused much of that campaign on Poliquin's votes for Donald Trump's unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy and Trump's failed attempt to end Obamacare.

Most notable among Poliquin's many votes against accessible health care was his May 2017 vote in favor of Trump's American Health Care Act. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that Trump's plan would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 23 million.

The House, then controlled by the GOP, passed the bill, 217-213. But it narrowly was defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Center for American Progress estimated that 116,800 fewer Mainers would have been insured had that "Trumpcare" proposal become law.

While Poliquin tried to frame himself as a stalwart supporter of protecting Americans with preexisting medical conditions — even invoking his asthmatic son as proof that he understood the issue — the plan he backed would have significantly reduced the availability of affordable health insurance for the roughly 230,000 Mainers with preexisting conditions.

While that legislation included a provision making it illegal for insurers to deny "access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions," independent fact-checkers noted that it would have allowed discrimination in pricing. Obamacare capped how much extra people could be charged, whereas under the GOP scheme, they could have been charged thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more annually.

At a July 2017 event at a senior living community, a voter whose son has multiple preexisting conditions tried to ask Poliquin about his vote on that bill. He responded at first by questioning whether she was a resident and whether she could even be at the public event. When an aide then told him to start the press conference and take questions later, the then-representative walked away from her.

After his presentation, Poliquin ignored requests to answer her questions and others, instead opting to just leave the venue.

The following year, he ran ads that were called out as "intentionally misleading" for suggesting that because Golden once backed making Medicare available for everyone, that meant he wanted to "end Medicare as we know it."

After losing to Golden, under Maine's instant runoff system, Poliquin unsuccessfully tried to get courts to throw out 22,805 runoff votes, citing a nonexistent constitutional requirement that House seats be elected based on a plurality vote.

A federal judge — appointed by Trump — rejected his challenge.

Poliquin may face competition to win his party's nomination. State Rep. Mike Perkins and state Sen. Trey Stewart have both indicated they may run for the seat.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.