Foster, Rashid square off in 11th District over health care votes

While proclaiming support for the landmark Affordable Care Act, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville is defending his votes on three Republican-led bills his current political challenger says would’ve chipped away at the legislation commonly called Obamacare.

Foster’s foe in the March 19 Democratic primary, Naperville attorney Qasim Rashid, has attacked Foster’s “yes” votes in interviews, advertisements and elsewhere. Then-President Barack Obama threatened vetoes if the proposals made it to his desk, and most House Democrats opposed them.

“He voted for (them) anyway, with Tea Party Republicans,” Rashid said in a recent joint interview with the Daily Herald. Each bill cleared the House by a wide margin but died in the Senate.

In response, Foster said he was “very proud” of his record on the Affordable Care Act. Foster noted he voted against multiple Republican repeal efforts, and he’s said his support of the controversial law cost him reelection in 2010.

Foster has served the 11th District since 2013. He represented the neighboring 14th District from 2008 to 2011, while living in Geneva.

Foster and Rashid both support universal health care, and Foster told the Daily Herald he wished everyone “had all the health care they wanted.” But Foster called himself an “incrementalist” when it comes to making legislative progress.

Rashid has tried to convince voters Foster is far from an Obamacare ally, pointing to three of Foster’s votes on health care legislation as proof.

The first bill, called the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, would’ve permitted insurance companies to continue offering plans outside the health care exchange established under the Affordable Care Act.

In a statement at the time, the White House “strongly” opposed the bill because it would’ve allowed insurers to not offer coverage for people with preexisting conditions, charge women more than men and retain annual caps on care.

The House passed the bill with a 261-157 vote. Foster was one of 39 Democrats who voted for the bill; 153 Democrats voted against it. The bill had bipartisan support among the Illinois delegation, with suburban Democrats Brad Schneider and now-Sen. Tammy Duckworth among those who also voted for the proposal.

The second bill, called the Employee Health Care Protection Act of 2013, was similar to the first bill and would’ve permitted insurance companies to keep offering plans outside the health care exchange through 2018. The White House strongly opposed this measure, too.

The House voted 247-167 to pass the bill. This time, Foster was one of only 25 Democrats who supported the plan.

The third bill, called the Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act of 2015, would’ve repealed sections of the Affordable Care Act establishing an independent board designed to develop proposals to reduce Medicare spending.

The White House said the bill would’ve increased Medicare costs and the federal deficit. The House passed the bill 244-154. Foster was one of 11 Democrats in Congress who supported the plan — and the only Democrat from Illinois in the “Yea” column.

In the joint Daily Herald interview, Rashid described Foster’s votes as “horrific” and accused Foster of trying to appease Republicans.

Rashid — who is making his first bid for elected office in Illinois after two attempts in Virginia — has called health care a human right and said it shouldn’t be a “for-profit exercise.” He wants to end insurance enrollment periods and to prevent medical debt from being reported to credit agencies, among other reforms.

Additionally, Rashid has criticized Foster for taking campaign donations from health care and health insurance companies. Foster donors from that field this cycle include State Farm, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and the Allstate Insurance Co., federal documents show. Rashid has refused to accept any corporate donations.

Foster accused Rashid of mischaracterizing his votes on the three health care bills. He said he believed the proposals would’ve strengthened the Affordable Care Act “both operationally and politically,” and pointed out he wasn’t the only Democrat who voted for them.

The Foster campaign also pointed out that the congressman opposed efforts by GOP President Donald Trump to repeal the law and voted to strengthen the law during President Joe Biden’s administration by supporting the American Rescue Plan Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and other legislation.

On social media, Rashid said Foster’s votes “speak for themselves.”

The 11th District encompasses portions of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face one of three Republican candidates in the Nov. 5 general election: Jerry Evans of Warrenville, Susan Hathaway-Altman of Geneva or Kent Mercado of Bartlett.

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