Tennessee lawmakers in middle of key House healthcare vote

Scott DesJarlais (Courtesy: Media General)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On the eve of a critical House vote, four Middle Tennessee Republicans, and one of them in particular, appear to be right in the middle of heavy lobbying from President Donald Trump to pass the GOP-led plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, whose district covers suburban Rutherford County, along with rural areas of Middle Tennessee, had a White House Wednesday morning meeting with the Vice-President Mike Pence as part of the House Freedom Caucus.

A spokesman for DesJarlais, who is also a medical doctor, said the representative is currently “leaning no.”

DesJarlais’ office also says that the representative spent time asking questions of President Trump while they flew together last week on Air Force One during a trip to Nashville.

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (Photo: WKRN)

Early Wednesday afternoon, DesJarlais’ office through a spokesperson told News 2, “Proposed changes to the American Health Care Act address some of Rep. DesJarlais’ concerns. However, for premiums to decrease in the short term, he would like to see others, such as an end to some Obamacare mandates that remain. The Congressman’s position hasn’t changed, he’s leaning no, however negotiations are ongoing.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn of suburban Williamson County, who was also was with the president on Air Force One last week, is non-committal on the eve of the vote.

Her office told News 2, “At this time, we are still working to achieve more conservative and patient-centered changes. We are also speaking with our constituents and welcome their input.”

Both she and DesJairlais spoke at the Nashville rally with President Trump.

Rep. DesJarlais chose his words carefully before the crowd at Municipal Auditorium last Wednesday.

“This healthcare thing we are dealing with in Washington, you are hearing a lot about it,” he said during his brief speech prior to the president. “We are going to take our time and get it right. We should have repealed it on day one. If we made a mistake, it was not doing it soon enough.

The office of freshman Rep. David Kustoff, whose sprawling district includes parts of West Tennessee, told News 2 the congressman is waiting for the “final product” to come out the rules committee Wednesday night before deciding how he will vote.

Diane Black (Photo: WKRN)

In a statement that lists failures of Obamacare, Kustoff did say “doing nothing is not an option.”

Rep. Diane Black of suburban Sumner County, who was not on the plane with the president last week, is in the middle of the GOP-led plan as chair of the House Budget Committee.

Rep. Black’s office has said “she intends to vote for it” and has been “supportive” after certain “conservative changes” were scheduled to be made.

Those provisions include “a work requirement for able bodied adults on Medicaid.”

A firm word on his vote comes from Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper.

He told News 2 in a statement, “I will vote no. The Trump/Ryan plan punishes people over 50, fails to control costs for anyone, and will force 24 million Americans to lose insurance completely. We should be fixing the problems in Obamacare, not hurting millions of Americans with this plan.”