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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 14, 2020

In tying Trump backer Karen Handel to Trump, Lucy McBath errs on Handel votes

If Your Time is short

  • As a House member, Handel was a strong Trump supporter.

  • But a repeal-Obamacare vote occurred before she took office, and she opposed Trump’s child-separation policy at the border.

  • Handel did vote for a Trump-backed bill that would have outlawed some late-term abortions.

In a rematch of a race that helped flip control of the U.S. House to Democrats, Georgia Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath tied her opponent to President Donald Trump.

A McBath TV ad starts with Republican Karen Handel bragging that she supported Trump 98% of the time.

The ad cites three examples, but it gets some things wrong when it claims Handel voted with Trump on "gutting health care for millions, supporting horrific child separation policies" and for "abortion bans."

A pivotal race

The 6th District rematch is one of 18 pivotal House and Senate contests up for election on Nov. 3 that PolitiFact is tracking.

Handel served in the House from June 20, 2017, to Jan. 3, 2019, after winning a special election to fill the remainder of the term of  Tom Price, who resigned. She is the former chairwoman of Fulton County (Ga.) Board of Commissioners and the former secretary of state of Georgia.

McBath defeated Handel in Handel’s bid for re-election in November 2018. McBath became a gun-control advocate after the shooting death of her teen son in 2012.

"Gutting health care"

McBath’s ad alludes to the American Health Care Act, a Trump-supported Republican bill that would have repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). 

The bill, which did not become law, was approved by the House, with only GOP votes, in May 2017. 

That was before the special election that put Handel in the House.

Featured Fact-check

As a candidate, Handel did say Obamacare needed to be repealed and replaced. She called the House vote a good first step.

It goes too far to say the bill would have been gutting health care. The bill would have retained Obamacare provisions such as prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage for a pre-existing health problem, although subsidies to keep insurance affordable would have been reduced dramatically.

"Child separation policies"

The ad also alludes to an August 2018 incident on the House floor over the Trump administration’s policy to separate children from their parents at the southern border.

With Handel acting temporarily as the House chair, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., played a recording of children crying in a detention center. Handel asked him to stop, citing a House rule that forbids the playing of electronic devices. She banged the gavel and ordered him to stop several times, but he continued playing the recording for several minutes.

Handel had expressed opposition to the policy two months earlier, however, saying: "We must find a more humane, compassionate approach — one that keeps families together to the fullest extent possible — as U.S. immigration authorities determine appropriate next steps."

"Abortion bans"

Handel did vote in October 2017 for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, backed by Trump, which would have made it a crime to perform an abortion "if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more." It passed the House but did not become law.

Our ruling

McBath’s ad gets some details wrong in saying that when Handel was in the House, she voted with Trump, "gutting health care for millions, supporting horrific child separation policies" and for "abortion bans."

Handel supported repealing Obamacare, but a House vote on a Republican replacement bill occurred before she took office. Handel opposed Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border. She did vote for a bill that would have outlawed certain abortions.

We rate McBath’s claim Half True.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

YouTube, Lucy McBath "98%" ad, Sept. 9, 2020

Email, Pablo Cueto, Karen Handel campaign manager Sept. 10, 2020

Atlanta Journal Constitution, "New McBath ad accuses Handel of being in lockstep with Trump," Sept. 9, 2020

Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Obamacare overhaul at center stage in Georgia 6th vote," June 14, 2017

Atlanta Journal Constitution, "It's not just Donald Trump -- the health care debate weighs on Karen Handel, too," June 14, 2017

Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Georgia Republicans pinched on immigration as family separation stories proliferate," June 21, 2018

Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Karen Handel gets drawn into U.S. House flap over family separations," Aug. 31, 2018

PolitiFact, "PolitiFact's guide to the Republican health care bill," March 22, 2017

11Alive.com, "Karen Handel makes headlines for stopping recording of immigrant children," June 25, 2018

C-SPAN, video of House session, Aug. 31, 2018

House of Representatives, Roll Call 549 on Bill Number H. R. 36, Oct. 3, 2017

White House, President Donald Trump statement, Jan. 29, 2018

Kaiser Health News, "Back to the Future: Trump’s History of Promising a Health Plan That Never Comes," Aug. 13, 2020

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More by Tom Kertscher

In tying Trump backer Karen Handel to Trump, Lucy McBath errs on Handel votes

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