Moderate Republicans in N.J., Pa. squeezed by attack ads from both sides on health care

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 Republicans U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania  (left) and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey have been targeted by attack ads over their positions on the GOP health care legislation. (J. Scott Applewhite and Mel Evans/AP Photos)

Republicans U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania (left) and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey have been targeted by attack ads over their positions on the GOP health care legislation. (J. Scott Applewhite and Mel Evans/AP Photos)

After a bruising fight over House Speaker Ryan’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, Congress is in recess.

But area Republicans won’t be getting a break from that debate.

Partisan groups have launched television ads attacking Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, gearing up for the next battle over Republican-led health care proposals.

On one side are conservative groups, which want a more aggressive rollback of Obamacare. In the opposite corner are interest groups that want to protect the former president’s signature law.

“President Trump and House conservatives have come together with a new plan,” intones an ad launched Wednesday by the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee, set to an ominous score. “So, who’s standing in the way? Professional politicians like Congressman Charlie Dent.”

Dent said the ad is misleading, because there is not a whole new plan yet, just discussions between conservative members of the Republican caucus and members of the Trump administration.

“Special interest groups on the far right have been advocating against the bill, the Freedom Caucus obviously, and they’ve taken some heat for that, so now they’re trying to save face and deflect criticism,” said Dent. 

Those ads are part of million-dollar campaigns announced this week.

Save My Care, a liberal group aimed at preserving Obamacare, launched its own million-dollar buy during the congressional recess.

“They’re doing it based on a lie,” said MacArthur, who represents Ocean and Burlington counties, of Save My Care’s recent attack ads against him. He said the ads’ allegation that he does not support coverage for pre-existing conditions is untrue.

The ads also criticize MacArthur for his vow to vote in favor of the American Health Care Act last month. MacArthur had previously opposed the bill, but changed his stance after lawmakers tweaked an earlier draft in March.

That plan would have resulted in 24 million more Americans without health insurance by the year 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

According to MacArthur’s office, the Club for Growth previously spent $500,000 targeting him around the time that Congress was considering the earlier version of the bill.

As members of the moderate Tuesday Group, MacArthur and Dent occupy contentious middle ground in  the Republican caucus, which needs to garner enough support from moderate and conservative Republicans to overhaul Obamacare without Democratic support.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina told reporters that the Freedom Caucus, which opposed the last version of the bill, would support a proposal that makes coverage of essential benefits optional and ends a requirement that patients of the same age be charged the same price for equivalent procedures. The combination, wrote the New York Times, would effectively kill coverage for pre-existing conditions, something both Dent and MacArthur said they oppose.

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