Democrats turn tables on GOP in ObamaCare messaging war

Greg Nash

Democrats have assailed the way House Republicans handled repealing and replacing ObamaCare, describing the legislative process as a sham.

For Republicans, much of the criticism should have a familiar ring, as it echoes the attacks that the GOP leveled against Democrats in 2009 and 2010 during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) debate. 

Republicans rode a wave of anger over ObamaCare to electoral victory in 2010, and they haven’t relinquished their House majority since. Now, Democrats have been using the GOP’s own playbook against them.

{mosads}Democrats “can start the ads now,” said Julius Hobson, an attorney and former lobbyist with the American Medical Association. “Now you get to attack every GOP House member and say he or she was the margin of victory to take away your healthcare benefits,” just like the Republicans did when ObamaCare passed.

Accusations of hypocrisy flew fast and heavy from Democrats this week, as the House passed an ObamaCare repeal bill after struggling with the contents for more than two months.

The bill was passed without an updated score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan scorekeeper of legislation, and lawmakers had little time to review the updated text before the floor vote. 

Republicans “got [the bill] out of the House, albeit by a narrow margin, but they violated every norm and pledge about how to get legislation through the House” that they’ve made, said Jim Manley, a former spokesman for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

During the debate over ObamaCare, Republicans repeatedly accused Democrats of rushing a massive bill through Congress without knowing what was in it or how much it would cost. 

Those criticisms came from none other than Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now the Speaker of the House.

“Before members even had time to read the 1,000-page bill, it already has cleared two major House committees,” Ryan wrote in a 2009 op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Those members of Congress who voted for this bill already in their committees did so without knowing what the legislation costs.”

House Republicans reject accusations they’ve rushed the bill.

“We’ve been talking about repealing and replacing ObamaCare for seven years. That’s the first time that I’ve had anybody say that we rushed anything,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Wednesday.

Democrats railed against Republicans this week for passing the healthcare bill without an updated CBO score.

On March 18, 2010 — three days before the final ACA vote in the House — the official Twitter account of the House GOP asked, “Will Speaker Pelosi ‘Wait for the Final Number’ from the CBO?” The score was released that day.

The GOP legislation, known as the American Health Care Act, would allow states to opt out of covering ObamaCare provisions preventing insurers from charging sick people higher premiums and mandating minimum insurance coverage requirements so long as high-risk pools are offered.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted the bill would actually “strengthen” coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, though he added it is “literally impossible” to predict the effects of the bill.

After the House passed the bill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said “forcing a vote without a CBO score shows that the Republicans are afraid of the facts.” 

The CBO hasn’t analyzed any aspects of the bill since it was pulled from the floor in March. The agency at that time determined that 24 million people would lose insurance coverage over 10 years if the legislation passed. 

Another popular claim from Republicans was that ObamaCare was negotiated and passed in the dead of night, behind closed doors and without one Republican vote. Democrats can counter they held numerous hearings, town halls and industry listening sessions. 

The House GOP worked for seven years to repeal the ACA, but held just two marathon markups of the bill that they passed last week, along with a quick session at the Budget Committee.

Republicans might also recognize the impassioned floor speech Pelosi made just moments before the vote on Thursday. 

In a back-and-forth with Democrats, Pelosi echoed the infamous “hell no” speech given by then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) moments before the 2010 House vote on ObamaCare.

“I’m sure somewhere Boehner was hoisting a glass of his favorite red wine and laughing,” Hobson said. “If you stay in this business long enough, you’ll see the roles reverse.”

Tags Boehner Harry Reid John Boehner Paul Ryan
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