Kingston: O-Care failure not 'responsible'

A Republican lawmaker running for Senate in Georgia is calling for improvements to ObamaCare, breaking with his party's proclaimed policy to simply let the law self-destruct.

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Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) on Monday questioned whether the Republican tactic to let the law fail was "responsible," and touted a bill he proposed to fix a portion of the law as a path forward on ObamaCare.

Speaking to local conservative radio station Z Politics, Kingston mentioned the “Small Business Fairness in ObamaCare Act" that he introduced, which would exempt some small businesses from the mandate to provide insurance to their employees under ObamaCare.

"And there’s some criticism, 'Well, are you helping improve this law when you make that change? And should we be doing that?'" Kingston said of pushback to his bill.

"A lot of conservatives say, 'Nah, let’s just step back and let this thing fall to pieces on its own.' But I don’t think that’s always the responsible thing to do," he added.

"I think we need to be looking for things that improve healthcare overall for all of us. And if there is something in ObamaCare, we need to know about it."

Kingston was speaking prior to a field hearing in Gainesville, Ga., of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight focused on ObamaCare.

While he had some criticism for the law — he said he believes the demand on Medicaid could overcrowd the system — he also expressed hope that Democrats would bring to the hearing some good feedback they've received on ObamaCare.

"If you get a lot of letters that say, 'Hey, back off, it works. I have a special needs child and here's why its been good for me,' we want to listen to that," he said.

A Kingston spokesman, Chris Crawford, said in an email to The Hill that Kingston was advocating for a replacement for the law in his interview.

"He essentially said that we don't just need to wait for Obamacare to die under its own weight, we need to be looking for solutions that would replace it," he said.

Kingston has repeatedly voted to repeal ObamaCare, and supported the government shutdown strategy that was pushed by conservatives to defund the law.

But his comments come in stark contrast to the stated strategy of Republicans that has emerged in recent weeks, which is to let the law fail in order to build momentum behind the party's effort to repeal it.

They're surprising compared to the rest of the GOP Senate field in Georgia, as well. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R) has made repeal of the law a central tenet of his campaign, pledging in his first ad of the election that if he doesn't succeed on that one goal when elected, he won't run for a second term.

Karen Handel, former head of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, attacked the congressmen in the race for "talking tough" but effecting "no action" on ObamaCare in a radio ad.

And Rep. Paul Broun (R) has staked out a far-right position in the primary. He broke with his party to oppose a Republican-backed bill that allows insurance companies to keep offering current plans to customers under ObamaCare, because he said it wasn't enough to fix the law.

"You cannot fix a law that will cripple our economy, increase our nation’s debt, and limit healthcare options for millions of Americans. I was one of only four Republicans to oppose this bill, because we can’t fix the president’s broken promises in ObamaCare. Instead, we must repeal ObamaCare for good," Broun said in a floor speech after the bill passed.

A spokesperson for his campaign later added that Broun is "certain that allowing [ObamaCare] to continue is absolutely irresponsible," and pointed to an alternative bill Broun introduced that would replace the law.

Whomever emerges from the eight-person Republican primary will likely go on to face nonprofit head Michelle Nunn, the Democratic establishment pick, in the general election.

Democrats face an uphill battle in seeking to wrest the state from Republicans, which became competitive with Sen. Saxby Chambliss's (R-Ga.) decision to retire at the end of his term. 

--This piece was updated on Nov. 26 to reflect comment from Broun's campaign.