Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, the head of the House Rules Committee, admitted during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that the GOP has not done a good job of winning over voters on their new healthcare bill.
Sessions said that while the GOP is facing problems corralling its own members to vote for the American Health Care Act — the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare — the bigger issue has come convincing constituents to support the bill.
“Members are also having problems with people back home, and that’s the problem” Sessions said. “It’s the people back home who are being very vocal, who are in these conservative groups that do not understand the bill because it has not been sold to them, that’s the real problem.
Sessions, whose committee will consider the AHCA on Wednesday, added that “the people back home are not sold” despite attempts by Republicans to convince constituents the plan is the right direction.
“That’s partially my fault also,” he said. “I’ve tried to take the time to explain to the American people why we’re doing this, but we recognise its the back-home voter — not the Washington, DC, voter.”
Sessions and many other Republicans have faced down raucous town halls over the past few months attacking them for their attempts to overhaul the healthcare system. Sessions got hammered last Saturday at a town hall in Dallas, where nearly 2,000 people attacked the GOP lawmaker for his part on the healthcare bill.
Recent polling has shown that the AHCA starts out very unpopular with Americans. An aggregate of polls compiled by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight showed at 30% of Americans surveyed support the bill, while 47% of people are against it.
A new Morning Consult/Politico poll, which uses different language in its question that makes it more favourable for Republicans, showed on Wednesday that 40% of those surveyed supported the bill (down from 47% two weeks ago) and 37% were against it (up from 35% two weeks ago). Disapproval for the bill grew in every category, including among Republicans.
Additionally, a new poll from Harvard’s Harris Polling found that just 26% of those surveyed felt the AHCA was an improvement, while 51% said it was a step back from the current system.
Session said despite these doubts, the planned vote on Thursday in the full House should still move forward because it is one of the first steps necessary to pass the bill. He said the kinks in the plan can be worked out in the Senate and conference committees.
Cuomo said Sessions is likely getting complaints from constituents on two sides: those who want Obamacare fully repealed, and those who don’t want to lose their health coverage. Session pushed back on the idea of the latter.
“Nobody is going to lose their coverage. You’ll be able to keep your same doctor, and keep your same plan,” Sessions told Cuomo.
The Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the AHCA, said that as many as 24 million people could lose their coverage over the next 10 years if the bill is passed into law. The Brookings Institution also in a post on Tuesday that the recent additions to the bill could make coverage losses even worse.
Sessions also said that the AHCA is “two-thirds of a good bill” but better than Obamacare, so it should pass.
Watch Sessions’ comments below: