Conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch are backing a last-minute million dollar gambit to try to push the Republican Obamacare replacement bill into oblivion.
The effort against the bill will hold millions in campaign donations but will only release that money to Republicans who vote against the replacement legislation that President Trump has backed.
The advocacy groups helmed by Charles and David Koch have unveiled a new pool of money for advertisements, field programs and mailings that would exclude those who vote for the health care bill they oppose on Thursday. The effort, which they described as worth millions of dollars, is an explicit warning to on-the-fence Republicans from one of the most influential players in electoral politics not to cross them.
Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips explained that the bill isn't doing enough to actually repeal Obamacare, something many Republicans ran their campaigns under, and a promise Trump made repeatedly during the presidential election.
"We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact," he said. "We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise."
The Kochs have been openly critical of Trump, so it comes as no surprise that they would oppose a bill many on the right say is too compromising and allows too much of the Obamacare "scaffolding" to remain in place while changing some minor features to call it a repeal.
Charles Koch had even likened Trump's suggested Muslim ban to the policies of the Nazis, and prior to the election the Kochs had refused to put money into the presidential campaign, choosing instead to support congressional conservatives.
Trump referred to their snub in a tweet that criticized the philanthropists:
I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1438524016.0
I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch. Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics, they will do much better!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1469908892.0
The "American Health Care Act" has been excoriated by the House Freedom Caucus for the same reasons, with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) even calling the bill "Obamacare Lite." The bill suffered a blow when the Congressional Budget Office concluded some politically damaging estimates of its effects that led to House Minority Leader Pelosi calling it "immoral" and "indecent," while Trump ally Newt Gingrich said the office should be abolished.