Four Democrats in Maryland's congressional delegation held a rally in Annapolis on Monday in an effort to pressure Gov. Larry Hogan to publicly oppose the Republican health care plan headed toward a vote in Congress later this week.
Democrats in Maryland have been trying for months to get Hogan, a Republican, to speak out against the repeal of Obamacare, noting estimates that show hundreds of thousands of state residents would lose coverage and that the budget would take a $1 billion-plus hit under proposed cuts to Medicaid.
Hogan has said he supports the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act — signed into law seven years ago this week — and that he wants no one to lose coverage under whatever legislation ultimately emerges in Washington.
But that posture isn't as strong as some other Republican governors — including Rick Snyder of Michigan and Brian Sandoval of Nevada — who wrote a letter late last week saying the legislation moving through the House to repeal and replace Obamacare "does not ensure the resources necessary to ensure no one is left out" and that it "shifts significant costs to states."
House Republicans are scheduled to vote on the measure on Thursday, but leadership is still trying to win support from within the caucus. House Speaker Paul Ryan is expected to announce changes to the bill ahead of the vote, but no one knows yet specifically what those changes might be.
"We're here with a plea — we're here with an ask, with a request — of Gov. Hogan, to stand up as many governors have done...to say that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act makes no sense for America and it certainly makes no sense for Maryland," said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"We asked Gov. Hogan to weigh in on this weeks ago," he said. "We thought it was a no brainer that our governor would step up."
A Hogan spokeswoman released a statement during the press conference arguing that the lawmakers were "wasting time playing politics" and "grandstanding."
"This type of grandstanding is exactly why Marylanders and Americans are sick of politicians and why Congress has an approval rating in the single digits," said the spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse. "Moreover, these members are disregarding the governor's direct appeal to them to work in a bipartisan manner to come up with responsible solutions for Maryland."
The four lawmakers, which also included House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County, denied there was politics involved and insisted Hogan could flip Republican support in Congress for the measure by speaking up.
Cummings said he resented the statement, and suggested that Hogan "come down here and say that.
"It's not about politics," Cummings said. "It's what we believe. How dare you talk about grandstanding."
The event was billed as a "press conference," but the lawmakers did not take questions from reporters at the lectern. As reporters tried to shout questions, Sarbanes said he didn't "want to get into a conversation just with the press" at the microphones "out of respect for the real people who are back there who came to join us," indicating to the Obamacare supporters who attended.
A reporter from WBAL-TV managed catch the lawmakers' attention as they were walking away from the lectern and the reporter ultimately came to the microphones to read Hogan's statement and ask for a response.
The lawmakers did take questions individually from reporters once the event was over.