Kevin Yoder’s still up-in-the-air health care vote

Kevin Yoder

Kevin Yoder

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder has been adamant since taking office in 2011 that Obamacare must be repealed and replaced. On Thursday, he was supposed to get his first real chance to do just that.

But House leaders reportedly postponed a vote on the Republicans’ troubled and defective American Health Care Act.

That gives some breathing room to Yoder, who still won’t tell the people of Johnson and Wyandotte counties his full position on the bill.

Lindsay Wise in The Kansas City Star’s Washington bureau finally got some news out of Yoder Thursday afternoon:

However, as Wise soon noted on Twitter, “this is not a decision to vote no, just an indication of where he would stand depending on status of negotiations.”

All of this is a bit odd, given the fact that Yoder voted dozens of times to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act when that was basically a meaningless action. A veto from President Barack Obama always stood in the way.

But now that Donald Trump is president and Republicans control Congress, Yoder’s vote actually matters in what could be a close decision on the despicable GOP bill. It makes it more costly for the poor to get health care, while favoring richer people.

Yoder has had more than two weeks to study the bill, as he promised constituents he was doing in early March.

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Yoder’s vote is crucial to his political future, especially with Johnson County voters who make up the bulk of his district.

True, Yoder won re-election rather easily in 2016. But Hillary Clinton narrowly beat Trump in his district.

The bumbling roll-out of Trump’s presidency in the first two months of this year — combined with a real concern about whether Yoder is going to blindly follow Trump on health care and too many other issues — could make the congressman vulnerable to a Democratic challenger in 2018. That would be a welcome turn of events in that district.

Moreover, if Yoder decides to run for governor of Kansas instead that year, his hopes also could rest largely on whether he’s still supported by the many Republicans in Johnson County. Any lingering outrage over a health care vote in 2017 could affect his plans, even if some in western Kansas support repeal.

Here’s part of what Yoder wrote in a March 17 letter to a constituent who questioned him about the new GOP bill. It stops a few feet short of saying he’s going to vote for the Republicans’ new plan.

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One of Yoder’s statements in another letter found its way Wednesday into a fact check by ProPublica.

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On Twitter, Yoder has found some support but also a lot of resentment about his attacks on Obamacare.

Of course, all kinds of last-minute machinations are possible on the health care vote.

Yoder could vote “no” and claim the bill doesn’t go far enough to dismantle Obamacare, which is what some very conservative Republicans are arguing.

With plenty of attention back home on whatever he does, Yoder remained noncommittal in the letter to his constituent last week — despite years of outrage over Obamacare.

Yoder wrote, “I am approaching this bill with an open mind, and I look forward to debate in the House.”