While announcing his new plan for making college more affordable Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y., President Barack Obama took a brief detour to slam Republicans who have been calling for the health care reform law to be defunded.
“We’ve seen a faction of Republicans in Congress suggest that maybe America shouldn’t pay its bills that have already been run up, that we should shut down government, if they can’t shut down Obamacare,” he told the crowd. “That won’t grow our economy. That won’t create jobs. That won’t help our middle class. We can’t afford, in Washington, the usual circus of distractions and political posturing. We can’t afford that right now.”
A senior administration official told TPM in an email that the president’s comments were part of a concerted effort to push back against the Obamacare defunding message that Republicans are pushing.“As the efforts to undermine and obstruct implementation of the health law heat up, administration officials and the president will be making clear case to the public that these latest attacks on funding are just one more part of a relentless campaign to stop, or hurt Obamacare,” the official said. “Health care is a key part of security for middle class families and the opponents of the law would leave Americans on their own.”
The White House has consistently said that defunding the law is a non-starter, but now the president is starting to regularly take that message to the public.
Some Hill Republicans, led by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, have urged their colleagues to use funding for Obamacare as leverage in the coming federal debt ceiling negotiations this fall. It’s been a popular topic on the stump as members of Congress tour their districts during the August recess. An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Reuters Thursday that Obamacare could be a “good leverage point” during those negotiations.
But they’re starting to see some pushback. Cruz was shouted down by Obamacare supporters at a town hall meeting earlier this week, and the president himself is making a point to chide them in his own public addresses — even when the topic is ostensibly, as it was Thursday, something else.
Obama also went off on an Obamacare tangent in a July 30 speech in Chattanooga, Tenn., which was more broadly about his proposals for creating jobs and improving the economy. He characterized the Republican focus on health care as a distraction from economic issues.
“The bad news is that rather than keep our focus on what should be our priority — which is growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs — we’ve seen a certain faction of Republicans in Congress hurt a fragile recovery by saying that they wouldn’t pay the very bills that Congress racked up in the first place, threatening to shut down the people’s government if they can’t get rid of Obamacare,” the president said.
In a White House press conference, while addressing a delay to a key provision of the health care reform law, the employer mandate, Obama berated GOPers for their “ideological fixation” with Obamacare.
“I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their Holy Grail, their No. 1 priority,” he said.
In his weekly radio address a week later, Obama devoted his message to the administration’s work to implement the law and took more swipes at the Republican preoccupation with obstructing its rollout.
“They’re actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they’ve been sick — and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process,” he said. “And many Republicans are more concerned with how badly this debate will hurt them politically than they are with how badly it’ll hurt the country.”