GOP critics sought ObamaCare grants

At least 11 Republican lawmakers who oppose ObamaCare have sought the law's grants for their constituents, according to documents obtained by The Nation

Letters from GOP lawmakers to the Obama administration reveal that many of healthcare reform's staunchest critics have actively lobbied for the law's funds. 

Most of the letters, obtained through a public records request, express Republicans' support for grant applicants based in their states. 

The letters focused primarily on two grants, both authorized under healthcare reform, to fight chronic disease and support community health centers. 

Republican members who sought the grants included Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Rob Portman (Ohio), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.), and Reps. Michael McCaul (Texas), Hal Rogers (Ky.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), Steve Pearce (N.M.), Lee Terry (Neb.) and Kristi Noem (S.D.). 

Several other letters came from Republicans who are no longer in office, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas). Another request came from Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) when he was a state assemblyman. 

Most GOP lawmakers emphasized that the money would help uninsured patients in their districts. 

"It is my understanding that these funds would provide coordinated primary healthcare services for the unserved, underserved and vulnerable populations, including infants, children and adults," Cochran wrote on Oct. 5, 2011. 

"I have been asked to support this application, and I am happy to offer my endorsement."

Cochran's office emphasized in a statment to The Hill that the senator "has supported Community Health Centers — and federal funding for those centers — since long before the Affordable Care Act became law."

"These centers provide important health care services to vulnerable populations in Mississippi. Changing the name of and authority for federal funding of these centers does not change the senator’s support for the centers themselves. Neither does it change the senator’s view that the Affordable Care Act is a deeply flawed law that should be repealed," said Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos.

A spokesman for Cornyn defended the senator, and argued the story took his support for a constituent's request out of context.

"Sen. Cornyn did not say the law will improve people’s health and he has voted many times to repeal and defund Obamacare. The story from a liberal publication takes a constituent letter completely out of context and uses it to unfairly attack Sen. Cornyn," spokesman Drew Brandewie said in a statement.

A spokesman for Terry said the congressman has to look out for his constituents.

“Congressman Terry has made clear his opposition to ObamaCare. It's unfortunate this law exists but he takes seriously his responsibility to represent the people of Nebraska's 2nd district,” spokesman Larry Farnsworth said.

“This is an issue of fairness, and while he doesn't agree with this law, it's his job to make sure that it works for the 2nd District. That means making sure his constituents are being treated fairly given that their tax dollars are paying for the implementation of this new law," Farnsworth said.

Republican lawmakers vehemently oppose healthcare reform and have sought to thwart its implementation at every turn. 

The issue has united the right over the past four years. Critics say the law will consume federal and state budgets and allow government to intrude on businesses and families in an unprecedented way. 

The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee both circulated links to the letters on Thursday, suggesting they will become campaign fodder in 2014. 

In an email to reporters, one Democratic lawmaker blasted the Republicans as duplicitous. 

“It doesn’t get more hypocritical and disingenuous than criticizing ObamaCare in the national media and then taking credit back home for local projects funded by the law,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

"Every day, more Americans are realizing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and realizing that the Republicans’ hypocritical rhetoric on the healthcare reform law just doesn’t comport with reality.”

Several Republicans defended their lobbying to The Nation, a liberal publication. 

"Sen. Chambliss voted against the Affordable Care Act, just as he did the stimulus package. But the bill passed, and if the money is available, we want Georgians to be able to compete fairly with folks from other states for it,” said spokeswoman Lauren Claffey. 

In a statement to the magazine, Isakson said he was merely trying to be helpful to constituents in writing his letter. He vowed to continue working for healthcare reform's repeal.

— This story has been updated with comments from lawmakers' offices.