Oregon GOP politician is key to Obamacare’s fate, and from state that embraced it

Rep. Greg Walden, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is not just another backbench Republican. He will have a large role in drafting promised legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act.

ONTARIO, Ore. —

When Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon visits his district, which swallows two-thirds of a very blue West Coast state, his constituents grouse amiably to their longtime Republican congressman about environmental regulations and federal lands policy.

And then the conversation shifts to the Affordable Care Act and what its repeal would mean for the struggling rural workers who have long voted for Walden, and for children like Rocco Stone, 11. Because of the health law, Rocco has been able to live at home, attend school and have a nearly normal life despite having autism and a rare genetic disorder.

“Our life was completely changed when Oregon and the federal government partnered to provide home and community services through Medicaid,” Rocco’s mother, Dana M. Stone, told the congressman this past week. “We are deeply, deeply concerned about talk at the federal level about a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act.”

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Walden, 60, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is not just another backbench Republican dealing with suddenly energized supporters of the health law at town-hall-style meetings. The lanky congressman will have a large role in drafting promised legislation to replace former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement and a huge say in decisions about the future of Medicaid, which the health law greatly expanded.

As a former chairman of the committee responsible for electing Republicans to the House, Walden knows the politics of health care as well as anyone. But in his new role, he must reconcile the political goals of his party, which is committed to repealing the 2010 health…

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