Sen. Dean Heller, while talking about health care, said Friday that he felt "real pleased at the way this thing turned out," referring to a legislative battle that ended in Heller casting a yes vote on a bill that ultimately failed.
Both liberals and his GOP primary opponent quickly seized on the comment, blasting it out to reporters and on Twitter.
The Republican from Nevada, who faces one of the toughest 2018 re-election battles in the Senate, was lobbied hard by both sides in the recent effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
He ultimately sided with President Donald Trump and his party's leadership by deciding to support the "skinny repeal" bill, a vote that could help him in the GOP primary but could complicate his general election bid next November in his purplish home state.
"I wake up every morning trying to figure out what's best for the state of Nevada, what can I do for Nevada families. And obviously we got in the middle of this health care battle and I feel real pleased at the way this thing turned out and we're turning the page now to tax reform," he said, according to video from CNN affiliate KRNV.
Throughout the summer, Heller expressed concerns about earlier efforts by conservatives to curb the provision of Obamacare that expanded Medicaid in many states, including Nevada.
The "skinny" bill, however, would have only repealed parts of Obamacare --- like the individual mandate --- but left in place Medicaid expansion, which was a big reason why Heller supported it in the end.
Heller campaign spokesman Tommy Ferraro said in a statement that Heller's comments to KRNV reflected his satisfaction at voting for a bill that repealed what they considered the "onerous provisions" of Obamacare.
"When asked about the health care debate, Dean Heller reaffirmed that he stands by his vote to repeal the most onerous provisions of Obamacare that hurt Nevadans who can least afford it," he said.
After his comments on KRNV, in which he said he was "pleased" at the outcome, the liberal group American Bridge started circulating video of Heller's comments, calling him "spineless."
And Danny Tarkanian, who's challenging Heller in the primary, tweeted out video of the senator's comment, saying Heller was "pleased with the way this thing (health care) turned out."
Heller responded, tweeting that he was pleased with his "vote" on health care.
"Fake news: I'm pleased with my vote to repeal Obamacare, a bill the @POTUS wanted to sign and @DannyTarkanian criticized."
While Republican leaders have said they're now ready to transition to tax reform, Trump ramped up pressure this week on the Senate to figure out a health care solution too.
Heller teased the upcoming tax reform fight, saying he'll be heavily involved. "You think I was in the front of that battle, wait 'til I sit on the finance committee, I'll be right on the front of finance for tax reform also," he said.
This BBSNews article originally appeared on News | WPLG.