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Chris Sununu says his party quit trying after failing to repeal Obamacare in 2017

The Republican New Hampshire governor has just launched a national fundraising committee, a possible step toward a 2024 presidential run.

By Josh Israel - February 09, 2023
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Chris Sununu
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said on Tuesday that his party had abandoned efforts to repeal Obamacare and that it should have kept negotiating on what he called “health care reform.”

During an appearance on WGIR 610 AM’s NH Today with Chris Ryan, first flagged by the progressive opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century, Sununu was asked about how he would address the high costs of health care.

“First, let’s just start with health care reform, which as a Republican, we were promised we were going to get in whatever it was, 2017 or 2018, the infamous John McCain-puts-his-thumb-down and our health care reform plan falls apart by one vote,” he answered. “The frustration with me there was if you lose something by a vote, go rewrite it. Go do it again. What do you need to see? Keep negotiating.”

In July 2017, the Senate voted on a version of the American Health Care Act, then-President Donald Trump’s unpopular “Trumpcare” plan, which failed when the late Sen. McCain (R-AZ) joined with two other Republicans to block its passage. The legislation would have repealed the popular 2009 Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and imperiled health insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

Trump ran in 2016 on a promise to “immediately” repeal the law and replace it with an unspecified “terrific” system that would provide coverage for every American. That plan never materialized.

In May 2017, Sununu and other Republican governors signed a letter to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan in which they claimed that Obamacare was “collapsing” and asked that he vote for the American Health Care Act, saying: “The President and Congress must act now to repeal the Affordable Care Act to protect the citizens we serve in the states. … As the Affordable Care Act continues to deteriorate, and as insurance premiums skyrocket across the nation, opposition to this failed policy grows. … [W]e humbly request that you vote to repeal and replace Obamacare and to reform the system going forward.”

Had Congress done as they asked, experts say, his own constituents would have been harmed.

As of late 2022, more that 94,000 New Hampshire residents receive health insurance through the law’s expanded Medicaid program, according to the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. Medicaid expansion was made possible under the Affordable Care Act.

Repeal would have eliminated provisions that make health insurance affordable for the roughly one quarter of Americans who have a preexisting medical condition. A 2019 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that this included about 233,000 nonelderly New Hampshire adults, or 28% of that population.

A Sununu spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

Sununu told ABC News on Sunday that he is considering a 2024 presidential campaign.

“I’m definitely thinking about it and having those conversations,” he said.

NBC News reported on Wednesday that Sununu had formed a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) political committee to raise unlimited cash, which the network noted can be used to help prepare for a presidential run.

“What we’ve done in New Hampshire is a great model for the federal government — specifically promoting the conservative tenets of limited government, local control, and individual responsibility,” Sununu said in a statement.

Though early polling on Obamacare showed that it was not initially popular, its support has grown significantly over time, as it has boosted access to and reduced the cost of health care. A March 2022 KFF Health Tracking Poll found that 55% of adults back the law, with 42% opposed to it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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