House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held an unusual press conference Thursday as he attempted to quell opposition to the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which since its debut Monday has come under fire from doctors, nurses, hospitals, the elderly, insurers, conservative lawmakers and conservative activists.
Striding onto the stage in rolled-up shirtsleeves, the House leader fired up a Powerpoint presentation about the bill, complete with bullet points and cutesy clip art of a piggy bank and a stethoscope.
The presentation largely rehashed the same talking points Republicans have used for years: the Affordable Care Act is “failing” and in a “death spiral,” the nation needs more health care choices and fewer regulations, and the Republican leadership bill “puts patients back in control.” He hammered away at the large premium increases happening now under the Affordable Care Act, without mentioning that only a tiny sliver of the country’s population is experiencing these hikes.
Using folksy but wonky language, Ryan peppered his TED Talk-style presentation with personal anecdotes, such as the tonsillectomy hospital bills he has had to pay for his own “Irish triplets”—three children very close in age.
Beaming at the dozens of reporters gathered in the Capitol basement room—and especially at the cameras at the back broadcasting his message on most major cable networks—Ryan said Republicans right now have “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” he said.
The true audience for the message was likely not the press, who peppered Ryan with detailed questions about the financial feasibility of the plan, but the dozens of House members in the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, who oppose the plan’s provisions to temporarily preserve the Medicaid expansion and offer tax credits to help people afford private insurance plans.
On Thursday morning, a political advocacy group allied with Ryan unveiled an campaign of TV attack ads targeting these dissenting members.
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.