French Hill's photo op 

click to enlarge ONE FOR THE SCRAPBOOK: French Hill with the president after passage of devastating health bill.
  • ONE FOR THE SCRAPBOOK: French Hill with the president after passage of devastating health bill.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a health care bill that only the blind, dumb or dishonest could call good for any but the wealthy. For its many flaws, it has been hailed as a ticket to congressional gains for the Democratic Party. Two things:

Yes. There's campaign fodder there. The bill is a gift to the wealthy in tax cuts financed by loss or hurtful reduction in health coverage for 24 million people, particularly older, poorer and sicker Americans.

If 2016 proved anything, it proved the danger of political assumptions. Transparently awful stuff  — suggesting that a war hero was a coward; bragging about sexual assault; serial lying; Russian alliances — doesn't necessarily disqualify a candidate. A New York Times analysis said Democrats believe every House district is in play, particularly those where President Trump didn't run strongly.

The analysis looked at districts where Trump received less than 55 percent of the vote as potential pickups if the current Republican congressman/woman voted for the health bill. Such districts include the 2nd District of Arkansas.

The 2nd District doesn't strike me as a great fit, however. Pulaski County, the most populous, still votes Democratic. But the surrounding counties are trending deeply and reflexively red. Still, 2nd District Republican Rep. French Hill, a starchy banker whose main concern in voting to repeal Obamacare seemed to be concern for profits of insurance companies (for whom his wife, coincidentally, lobbies), isn't exactly Joe the Plumber.

The House vote got the Arkansas Democratic network (such as it remains) chattering. I'm reasonably sure Democratic state Rep. Clark Tucker of Little Rock, to name one, got lots of encouragement. But it's an uphill climb, even for a gifted politician, and the prize is perpetual commuting and money grubbing to work in a dysfunctional branch of government. Also, the Senate may yet bail the House Republicans out politically with a less awful piece of legislation.

Still, the spectacle of House Republicans loading what one writer called "party buses" to roll over to the White House to yuk it up about a vote that could devastate millions of sick people was an ill-conceived photo opportunity. But Congressman Hill did his duty. He even got caught in the act.

Say cheese, French!


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