March 10, 2017

Have you ever seen an old congressman walk a tightrope? Here's one.

Dan Donovan, long-time congressman from Brooklyn/Staten Island and the city's only Republican representative in Congress, is feeling the heat.

Hospitals, small business owners, and all those people who benefitted from Medicaid expansion, are against the Obamacare repeal, even though Staten Island went for Trump by 17 percentage points.

And until recently Donovan had it pretty easy, winning both his races with over 60% of the vote. All that might change if people in his district lose their health insurance. Huffpo:

Although personally affable —the man projects a nice-guy, over-the-backyard-fence image —Donovan has supported President Trump’s controversial, signature travel ban on refugees and visitors from seven Muslim majority nations.

Donovan apparently has a reputation among constituents for ducking out from uncongenial situations. At the recent “Newsmakers” meeting he slipped out the back door without stopping to talk to his disaffected district voters. Among the complaints, yelled from the audience were, “Have a Town Hall!” and “Answer Your Phone!” A schedule of public appearances is not listed on his website.

So in today's interview with Kate Bolduan, Donovan is avoiding live town halls and opting for the cowardly "tele" town halls that limit participation (and embarrassing YouTube videos). And what's worse, he's taking the totally false "paid protestors" line in explaining why:

REP DONOVAN: I had 150 members of the Chamber of Commerce coming to exchange ideas about tax reform, immigration reform. The event was taken over by professional protesters, 40 of them had to be taken out. Nobody got to ask questions or exchange ideas with me.

That said, he's clearly afraid that party and presidential loyalty might cost him his job:

I'm very concerned about our seniors, if we're going to allow insurance companies to charge seniors five times the rate they charge younger people, right now the law is you can only charge them three times as much. So I have great concerns. but I'm listening to people before I make a decision. The bill is not going to be perfect, Kate. So I have to decide what's best for the 740,000 people that I represent in New York City, not what's good for the Republican Party or the whole country.

And then he said this about Medicaid expansion, which is the hole in his argument that may be his downfall:

There's many moderate Republicans who are concerned about the people who are helped by the Affordable Care Act. And most of these people are hardworking people who just don't earn enough to pay for their own insurance or don't get insurance from their employer. We have to make sure that we're not pulling the rug out from underneath those people. Again, I'm not an economist, but there are people who believe, keep those people on the expansion plan long enough, with the economy growing, they will actually phase out because their income levels will rise, they won't need to be on Medicaid at all. That's not a bad thing, getting the people off Medicaid.

Except if their incomes rise above Medicaid but not above affordability of private insurance, whatcha gonna do then, Congressman? That's the ugly place where your party is taking away health insurance. And there are plenty of Democrats in New York City who are happy to tell you so. Both sides don't want to take away insurance from middle class Americans. Why do Republicans? I guess that's another reason to avoid town halls.

Ed. Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Donovan has been elected to Congress twice -- once in 2015 and once in 2016. He is a relative newcomer to Congress, but that doesn't change the fact that he may not be in a safe seat much longer.

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