While President Obama was out in the heartland pushing his energy policy offensive today, Hill Republicans have been pushing equally hard to ensure that the administration is on defense when the two-year anniversary of the healthcare reform law rolls around Friday.
In a double publicity boon for opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments Monday on the constitutionality of the insurance mandate.
For a piece of signature legislation that was such a “big f—ing deal,” in the immortal words of Joe Biden, the White House is being decidedly low-key about the PPACA’s birthday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed today that there are no events on the president’s schedule to mark the day. “But I want to be clear that this was historic and important legislation that is already leading to significant benefits for millions of Americans,” he said, noting that the administration released a video “that features a lot of folks who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act already.”
“I found absurd some of the suggestions that the president or the White House, the administration was running away from or not interested in talking about the Affordable Care Act, because, as you know, and I have seen, the campaign has put out its own campaign video where the Affordable Care Act is featured prominently,” Carney added. “… I don’t think a week goes by where he doesn’t include remarks about health care reform in some form or another.”
The message from Republicans this week? Obama should be running away from the law.
“We want to take a look back at what we think is a terrible piece of legislation,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said today. “The law really does represent one broken promise after another.”
He noted that the bill came with promises of 400,000 jobs “almost immediately,” and now the Congressional Budget Office predicts a loss of 800,000 jobs due to the law. This is on top of the CBO finding that the law will increase family premiums by an average $2,100 a year, the senator added.
“When this is all said and done… it will dwarf what the predictions were in terms of cost,” Thune said.
So all weapons in the arsenal are coming out. The Republican Study Committee caucus of House conservatives released “ObamaCare in 5 Pictures,” a series of charts taking fresh hits at the law.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report on the law’s negative impact on jobs.
“Obamacare’s attempt at a wholesale remake of our health care system will have crippling impacts on businesses and job creators — at a time when we can least afford it,” Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said. “Our report documents job creators — in their own words — expressing very real and very personal concerns about what Obamacare will mean to their firm and their employees.”
Other members publicly renewed their mission to take down the two-year-old law.
“I ran for office in order to defund, dismantle, repeal, and replace Obamacare,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), one of the freshmen swept into office in the 2010 midterms. “I will not rest until the entire law is repealed and today we are one step closer to fulfilling this promise.”
Hill speakers at the American for Prosperity Hands Off My Healthcare rally just a couple blocks from the Supreme Court on Tuesday will include House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), whose Path to Prosperity released this week repeals ObamaCare, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
Some Democrats released statements of their own, praising the law. “I know that as key provisions of the health care law continue to be implemented, Americans will continue to see how they are personally benefiting from this landmark law,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said.. “Although there are efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, we cannot move backwards.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led her website with a photo of Obama signing the PPACA into law and featured text from a Tuesday press conference at which other women Democrats in the lower chamber praised the law for helping women’s health.
“The proudest day I’ve had in Congress was on March 23rd, two years ago when we passed the Affordable Care Act – establishing for the first time in the United States of America that health care is a right in this country,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “And, of course, the Republicans have voted twice and will continue to support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.”
The anniversary also comes on the heels of House Republicans stripping another provision from ObamaCare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board that would be able to make major cuts to Medicare. The PATH Act also implements medical liability reforms in an effort to cut down on frivolous lawsuits.
“We have a saying around Washington that things are DOA or Dead on Arrival,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said. “Well, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is DBB or Dead Before Birth.”
Such efforts are usually DOA in the Senate, but today’s IPAB repeal marked the 26 House vote to chip away at the healthcare reform law.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) voted “present” on the PATH Act to symbolize his opposition to taking ObamaCare apart piece by piece.
“We must pull ObamaCare out by the roots because it is an unconstitutional takings of our Liberty. IPAB is not distinct from ObamaCare, it is the essence of ObamaCare and for that reason the law must be repealed as a whole,” King said. “The American people continue to speak out against ObamaCare’s individual mandate, its attack on essential first amendment conscience protections, and its multitrillion-dollar price tag.
“Partial repeal only empowers this government takeover of one-sixth of the economy, and until full repeal is realized we will continue to muddle our message,” he added.
Republicans aren’t just marking an anniversary by decrying an intrusive law, but setting up the issue as a campaign vulnerability for the president. A Rasmussen poll this week found that 56 percent of likely voters favor repeal of the law at least somewhat.
That strategy could be a challenge if the nominee is Mitt Romney, given the former Massachusetts governor’s own state healthcare reform. But Thune told PJM on today’s conference call that Obama’s policy failures warrant an all-of-the-above strategy to hit at the incumbent seeking four more years.
“His main vulnerability is his policies,” Thune said. “Healthcare, of course, is one of those.”
It’s also in terms of college tuition, energy, dramatic growth in the national debt, and an increasing number of those now on food stamps, he said. “Every metric out there in the broader economy has worsened,” the senator said. “He’s got a real vulnerability on economic policies that connect back to Americans.”
And the ObamaCare anniversary coupled with the Supreme Court case gives Republicans a can’t-miss opportunity on messaging.
“There needs to be an intensity to our efforts because the stakes are incredibly high,” Thune said.