Fact Check

Did 33 Republicans Who Voted to Repeal Obamacare Lose Their Congressional Seats?

Voting to repeal Obamacare may or may not have doomed the re-election chances of many Republicans in Congress.

Published Dec. 5, 2018

Updated Dec. 6, 2018
Image Via txking/Shutterstock.com
The Congressional seats of almost three dozen Republicans who voted to repeal Obamacare were lost to Democrats in 2018.

In late 2018, as new members of the U.S. Congress prepared to take office following the midterm elections, a meme circulated a claim on social media that a number of Republican legislators had been voted out of office after having supported a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

In the meme, red "X' marks were drawn through the faces of 33 lawmakers who purportedly were rejected by voters in the 6 November 2018 midterm elections:

Although memes are frequently grossly inaccurate, this one got the general idea and numbers correct (even if the persons actually pictured in the accompanying photograph are difficult or impossible to identify). By our count, at least 34 Republican legislators who voted to repeal or partially repeal Obamacare will not be returning to Congress when the new session begins in January 2019.

Here's how the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) described votes in the House and Senate in May and June 2018 regarding health care:

On May 4, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act by the razor-thin margin of 217-213. Those voting “yes” were voting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate did not adopt this legislation, so it never became law ...

On July 26, the U.S. Senate defeated a “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by a vote of 51 to 49. Those voting “yes” were voting to partially repeal the ACA. Had this measure passed, it would have been the basis for negotiating a final bill with the House of Representatives.

Not all of the non-returning legislators who cast votes against the ACA were "voted out" in a literal sense, as some "retired" (i.e., didn't run for re-election) and saw their seats go to Democrats:

House of Representatives

Jason Lewis
Erik Paulson
Kevin Yoder
Pete Sessions
Steve Russell
Rod Blum
David Young
Randy Hultgren
Peter Roskam
Bruce Poliquin
Keith Rothfus
Mike Bishop
Jeff Denham
Steve Knight
Mimi Walters
Dana Rorbacher
Mia Love
Claudia Tenney
Tom Macarthur
Carlos Curbelo
Dave Brat
Scott Taylor
John Faso
John Culberson
Rodney Frelinghuysen (retired, seat flipped)
Martha McSally (ran for U.S. Senate, seat flipped)
Mark Sanford (retired, seat flipped)
Dave Trott (retired, seat flipped)
Darrell Issa (retired, seat flipped)
Steve Pearce (retired, seat flipped)
Ed Royce (retired, seat flipped)

U.S. Senate

Jeff Flake (retired, seat flipped)
Dean Heller

On the other hand, seven GOP House Members did not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act yet still saw their seats lost to Democrats:

Barbara Comstock
Leonard Lance
Dan Donovan
Mike Coffman
Ryan Costello (retired, seat flipped)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (retired, seat flipped)
Frank LoBiondo (retired, seat flipped)

Some commenters who went through the photograph used in the meme in microscopic detail to try to discern the identities behind the tiny faces obscured with red X's noted that they didn't all correspond to the (unnamed) members of Congress whose seats were lost after they voted to repeal the ACA:

Democrats needed to flip 23 Republican seats in the House of Representatives to gain majority control of that body, and they succeeded in doing so, with the latest tallies showing the Democratic party taking electoral victories from Republicans in 40 congressional districts nationwide. Although Republicans made gains in the U.S. Senate, Democratic candidates took seats formerly held by Republicans Jeff Flake and Dean Heller in Arizona and Nevada, respectively (both of whom had voted for the "skinny repeal" of Obamacare).


American Association of Retired Persons.   "Holding Congress Accountable for Health Care Votes."     September 2018.

Scott, Dylan et al.   "All the House Seats Democrats Have Flipped in the 2018 Elections."     Vox.   26 November 2018.

Connolly, Griffin.   "Democrats Poised to Flip Another California Seat as AP Retracts Call."     RollCall.   27 November 2018.

Edmondson, Catie, and Jasmine C. Lee.   "Meet the New Freshmen in Congress: More Democrats, Diversity and Women."     The New York Times.   20 November 2018.

Sullivan, Sean.   "Republicans Abandon the Fight to Repeal and Replace Obama’s Health Care Law."     The Washington Post.   7 November 2018.


This article was updated to add the tweet shown near the bottom, about attempts to discern the identities of the pictured persons.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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