GOP Presidential Candidates Vow To Continue Fight Against Obamacare

Jun 26, 2015
Originally published on June 27, 2015 1:47 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's listen to President Obama's reaction yesterday after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of his signature health care law.

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BARACK OBAMA: After more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

GREENE: Here to stay. Well, the reaction from Republican presidential candidates was more or less not if it is up to me. As the race to succeed President Obama heats up, NPR's Tamara Keith reports that the fight over Obamacare is not going anywhere.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There have already been three elections where the Affordable Care Act played a leading role. And if Texas Senator Ted Cruz has anything to do with it, 2016 will be no different.

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TED CRUZ: I believe 2016 will be a national referendum on repealing Obamacare.

KEITH: Cruz is one of 13 Republicans so far running for president. He spoke on the Senate floor, pulling out an SAT word to describe the Supreme Court in what he views as its judicial activism in the case.

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CRUZ: These rogued Houdinis have transmogrified a federal exchange into an exchange, quote, "established by the state." This is lawless.

KEITH: Campaigning in New Hampshire, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was asked if the ruling means Obamacare is here to stay.

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MARCO RUBIO: I hope not. I disagree with their decision. I believe Obamacare is bad for Americans, bad for the country.

KEITH: Rubio is among those Republicans who, rather than simply talking about repeal, also talk about a, quote, "consumer-centric replacement." Jeb Bush released a short video with the music track running behind it.

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JEB BUSH: What we need to have is more choices for people empowering them to make decisions, rewarding better health care outcomes, more flexibility, less mandates.

KEITH: For Republicans on the campaign trail, and in Congress, the Supreme Court case King V. Burwell represented both an opportunity and a risk. If the ruling had gone against the Obama administration, the law they hate would've been mortally wounded. But controlling both the House and Senate, they would've had to deal with millions of Americans losing health insurance subsidies. Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican political consultant, says this keeps the argument simpler.

RICK WILSON: The silver lining of this and the political lining of this is that this takes away an aspect of what the Democrats would've attacked us on in the fall of next year. This kicks Obamacare in the political frame where it exists right now. This doesn't change the game on how the public feels about Obamacare.

KEITH: And how does the public feel? Just about the same way they did when it first became the law, says Molly Anne Brodie, who conducts public opinion research for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

MOLLY ANNE BRODIE: And you have about half the public who likes the law, half the public who doesn't like the law. And when you look underneath that, what you really just find is that Democrats have always liked this law and Republicans have never liked this law. And their opinions have been set in stone from the beginning, and they've not changed at all over the time.

KEITH: Most people don't really know what the Affordable Care Act does or whether it has affected them. But Brodie says Republican presidential candidates are likely to keep talking about it.

BRODIE: Because it is a good issue to get their base revved up and likely encouraged, you know, to come out and vote.

KEITH: Republican candidates aren't the only ones hoping the health care law can rev up their base. Hillary Clinton's campaign sent out a fundraising email yesterday afternoon quoting Bush, Rubio and Mike Huckabee, another GOP candidate. The email said they were all trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and, quote, "let's make sure they never get the chance." It concludes chip in a dollar today. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.