Darrell Issa's yes vote on Obamacare repeal makes him center of attention

May 4, 2017

After days of saying he was undecided and even that he didn’t want to talk about it, Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican lawmaker from Vista who represents northern San Diego County and southern Orange County, joined those who voted to approve a health care bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare.

Even as his supporters praised his vote, Issa’s detractors blasted it, saying it may have been the 216th vote to put the measure over the top. Needing 216 for approval, the bill passed narrowly, 217-213, and the last few votes registered slowly as the tally was shown on television. Did Issa cast the 216th vote?

Issa spokesman Calvin Moore emailed after this story was published: “I see in multiple places you refer to Issa allegedly casting the ‘deciding vote.’ As I'm sure you know, the vote was 217 - which is a two vote margin. Pretty clear it's impossible for any single vote to be ‘the deciding one’ given that.”

Scroll down for our exchange with Moore.

The Obamacare replacement bill now moves to the Senate. The speculation over what this vote means for Issa’s political future had already begun before Republicans celebrated in the White House Rose Garden.

Will it help or hurt him in the 2018 election in a congressional district he narrowly held onto in 2016? Issa clearly thinks the former. Among San Diego County’s congressional delegates, the vote broke on party lines. Issa and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, voted yes while San Diego County’s three Democrats voted no.

“Let's stop pretending Obamacare is going to fix itself or that somehow, someday, it’s going to get better,” Issa said in a statement after the vote. “Today's vote gives a voice to the victims of Obamacare, the millions of Americans who are paying higher premiums, receiving less coverage and for whom the status quo offered no end in sight.”

He added that he feels Obamacare is doing real harm to Californians and that “constituents are counting on me to deliver real relief.”

“Obamacare was a failure from the get-go. Now is the time to make it right,” he said.

Issa’s position on the bill was unknown heading into the final hours before the vote on Thursday. When reporters asked him on Tuesday how he would be voting, his reply was “none of your business.”

After that quote pinged around the internet, Issa told some local reporters in San Diego on Twitter that he was undecided and still reviewing changes.

Many have pondered what Issa’s vote on the American Health Care Act would mean to his future as the longtime representative of the 49th District. After years of serving as one of President Obama’s biggest critics and winning elections handily, Issa won just 50.3 percent of the vote in 2016 to secure his ninth term.

His challenger, retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate, earned 49.7 percent of the vote and was the first Democrat to announce he’d challenge Issa in 2018.

Since then, some say Issa has been working to appear more moderate. Issa told The Los Angeles Times that “nothing could be further from the truth” and thoughts along those lines are “bullshit.”

He seems to have proved that with his vote in support of the conservative health care bill.

Those who were outraged by his decision took to Twitter to express their frustration or hopes that Issa will be defeated next election.

Others were grateful for Issa’s yes vote.

Applegate and another of his challengers in the race for the 49th district, Mike Levin, capitalized on the moment.

Others immediately echoed Levin’s call for financial opposition to Issa.

Journalists were paying close attention to who might cast a deciding vote. A Politico reporter listed Issa as among three last-second votes and a reporter for HuffPo and a commentator for The Young Turks said he was the 216th.

As you can see above, reports that Issa cast the 216th vote irked some people on social media. We’re working to get more comment from Issa’s office. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial and opinion director, Matthew T. Hall, asked Issa directly.

We also tweeted questions to the two reporters who identified Issa’s vote as “last second” and the “216th vote.’

Here is the email exchange between Moore, Issa’s spokesman, and Hall, the U-T editorial and opinion director.

MH: Thanks for reaching out with a comment. Can you confirm that Rep. Issa was the 216th vote? We're updating the story now, so we'll add your answer when it comes. Cheers.

CM: There is no way to verify that. But even if so, it wouldn’t make him the “deciding vote” since he could have voted yes or no, and the bill would have passed.

MH: Thanks for the quick response. Why no way? CNN had a running tally of yeses and nos, and the last few nos clearly took some time, meaning those last-second voters knew they were voting at the end of the process. And the 216th vote put it over the top, regardless of whether there was 217 or not. To that end, Rep. Issa could have cast his vote early on and this question of whether he was 215 or 216 or 217 wouldn't arise. So I'll ask this question again: Why did Rep. Issa wait until the very end of the tabulating to cast his vote this way? Was it important for him to have the timing of the vote that way? What message does the late timing of his vote to send to his constituents or the country? Thanks again.

CM: The timing is completely irrelevant. It would have passed with or without his vote.

MH: Will you please answer those last questions? Clearly, there was a conscious decision to wait to the end to cast a vote. Why was that the case? Thanks again!

CM: Will you please acknowledge the obvious ridiculousness of buying into the idea that someone was a “deciding vote” for something that would have been decided with or without their vote?

MH: Why do you see it as ridiculous? And why wait until the closing seconds to vote?

CM: Other than being a 5-alarm-pants-on-fire-lie? How can someone be the “deciding vote” for something when the result would have been the same regardless of how they voted? In order to be the deciding vote, you must actually decide the outcome of something, which clearly the Congressman did not. In order for him to have been the deciding vote, the outcome must have been incumbent upon his particular vote – which is was not – since he could have voted yes, or no and it still would have passed. The order is completely irrelevant to any outcome.

MH: Let me rephrase the question: What message does it send that Rep. Issa was among the last few votes to put this over the top? Was it important for him to have the timing of the vote that way? What message does the late timing of his vote to send to his constituents or the country?

CM: Ok. Let me rephrase my answer: The timing of when any member votes in a particular series is completely irrelevant. I think you’re trying to read into something here that is immaterial.

MH: Ok, we've gone around a few times and it seems you don't want to answer why Rep. Issa was among the last of his colleagues to vote today as opposed to voting immediately as voting got underway. I appreciate your time and will just ask: Is this your final answer?

CM: I’m answering your question. You just don’t like what I’m telling you because it doesn’t fit the narrative you’re trying to create here. The timing of when a member actually casts a vote doesn’t mean anything – you just want it to. But you also irresponsibly mislead your readers if you say that Issa was the “deciding vote” because most readers would assume that means that the vote would have sank or swam based on the decision he made. Which it didn’t. The bill would have passed with or without him. I can try to find a record of the order votes were cast, but the clerk doesn’t record that.You saw these “deciding vote” attacks come up when Obamacare passed in the Senate in 2009 because it passed by a single vote – so presumably any Democratic member of the Senate, where they replaced by a republican, would have created a different outcome. That’s not the case here. The bill would have been passed whether Issa voted yes or whether he voted no. To be responsible, you really should remove any references to that from your story.

MH: To be clear, I don't "want" anything. I'm just trying to get a sense of why Rep. Issa waited to cast his vote toward the end. If you could share the order Rep. Issa's vote was cast, I'd appreciate it. Thanks again.

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