BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump is holding a major fundraiser for a Republican New Jersey congressman who helped revive the GOP push to dismantle the health care law.
U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur said Sunday's event at Trump's New Jersey golf club is the first personal fundraiser the president has hosted for a member of Congress and his campaign expects it to be their single biggest ever, topping a previous record of $100,000.
MacArthur is embracing Trump even after a bruising week that saw former FBI Director James Comey testify to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that he believed the president was telling him to end an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Trump's lawyer has denied the charge.
MacArthur, a wealthy, two-term incumbent and former insurance executive, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he's honored the president is holding the event on his behalf.
And he's not backing away from the Republican president who lost in his state but beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the southern New Jersey district in 2016.
"We need for our president to succeed and for the people that seem to want to just attack, attack, attack, my message would be: Honor your country and give this president a chance to succeed," MacArthur said, adding that he hadn't watched the Comey hearing and didn't have anything to say about it.
The fundraiser comes ahead of the 2018 midterm elections when MacArthur's 3rd District seat, which stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs in the west, across the Pine barrens to the shore in Ocean County, will be up for election along with the rest of the GOP-led House and a third of the Republican-controlled Senate.
MacArthur is under political pressure because of his role in helping pass the overhaul, which is stalled in the Senate where lawmakers are working on their own version. He faced angry voters during a five-hour town hall in his district last month and confronts regular protesters at his district office, who recently conducted a "die-in" at his Marlton district office.
MacArthur said the demonstrations and town halls — he's held two this year — help him understand where voters are coming from.
"I genuinely empathize with them. I need for them to understand — this is why I stayed there for five hours — I am trying to fix a problem," he said.
Trump's sagging job approval isn't reason enough for MacArthur to shun him, said Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Center for New Jersey Politics, mostly because as the president, he's a major draw for donors. The fundraiser, which Trump himself is expected to attend, suggests donations from $5,400 to $100,000.
"He's still the president," Dworkin said.
MacArthur was one of only two Republicans among five from the state to back the House health care legislation, which would dismantle President Barack Obama's signature law.
He helped the measure gain support from conservative colleagues by writing an amendment that would allow states to get federal waivers to the requirement that insurers charge healthy and sick customers the same premiums. The change would be for people who let their coverage lapse. MacArthur said those people would be covered by high-risk pools.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill would leave 23 million fewer people with insurance by 2026.
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