GAZETTE MAIL - Over the past weeks, Shelley Moore Capito has been vocal about her problems with her fellow Senate Republicans' plans to replace the Affordable Care Act.

I didn't come to Washington to hurt people, she said. The bill is not the right fix for West Virginia, she said.

But this week, push came to shove. In two votes as close as they could be, Capito showed who she went to Washington to represent.

Bad news for the most vulnerable West Virginians who need health care: It's not you.

Bad news also for people with pre-existing conditions, or those whose businesses and household budgets thrive better when people have access to affordable health care and the future of the system is not in a constant state of uncertainty: It's not you, either.

Capito's vote Tuesday to advance the cause to undo progress made by the Affordable Care Act was bad enough. But the vote Friday for a "skinny repeal" of the health care act — in the small hours of the night, after the bill had been available for only two hours and after practically every group with a stake in health care had come out against it — may be the worst vote she's ever cast.

Friday's bill didn't have any of the funding to help West Virginians addicted to opioids, which Capito said was so important. She said if necessary, she wouldn't vote to repeal the act without a replacement in place — and a replacement was nowhere in sight. No guarantee that the approximately 170,000 West Virginians who received coverage under the ACA's expanded Medicaid program will continue to have access to health care, or substance abuse treatment.

When the Republican Party leadership needed her, Capito abandoned all her noble words and meekly fell in line, voting with the majority of Republican senators for the bill. They said they didn't like the bill, and hoped it wouldn't become law, and they would fix it in consultation with the House of Representatives.

(Of course, that's largely what House Republicans, notably Rep. Evan Jenkins, said about their health care repeal bill they sent to the Senate earlier this spring: We don't like our bill, but we passed what we could get enough Republicans to vote for, and we hope the Senate will fix it.)

In recent weeks, Capito was grouped with Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska as moderate GOP senators who were standing firm against efforts to deny insurance coverage to poor people.

No one's putting them together now. Along with Sen. John McCain, Collins and Murkowski voted against Friday's terrible bill. Capito couldn't find it within herself. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needed her. President Donald Trump landed in her state and called her out at the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree, and she went running to them.

In all this, let's not forget Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat in a pro-Trump state who has said all along he wants to repair, not repeal, the Affordable Care Act and did not waver on that.

Capito's wavering, on the other hand, has prompted people to throw around some strong words for her, such as liar and hypocrite. She caught some of those same words from right-wingers as well, because she refused earlier to vote for a straight repeal of the ACA after doing so previously in the Senate (and dozens of times in the House), when she knew that then-President Barack Obama would veto those.

So maybe she was stuck.

But there's a way to avoid that situation. Pick a side.

This week, Capito did. And it was the side of the Republican Party in Washington, not the side of West Virginians.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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