President Barack Obama’s salvo aimed at Republican governors over Obamacare implementation was largely overshadowed by other comments he made during Tuesday’s press conference, but those remarks may pack the most powerful political punch of anything he said.
“You’ve got a number of governors — Republican governors — who know that it’s bad politics for them to try to implement this effectively. And some even who have decided to implement it and then have their Republican-controlled legislatures say ‘Don’t implement,’ and won’t pass enabling legislation,” Obama told reporters during the 47-minute session at the White House.
“When you have that kind of situation, that makes it harder,” Obama said, responding to a question about Democrat Sen. Max Baucus, one of the bill’s key architects, calling Obamacare a “train wreck.”
Obama said that when states don’t cooperate “it puts more of a burden on us.
“It’s ironic, since all these folks say that they believe in empowering states, that they’re going to end up having the federal government do something that we’d actually prefer states to do if they were properly cooperating,” Obama said.
In singling out Republican governors for their refusal to participate in Obamacare exchanges in their states, the president certainly seemed to draw a line in the political sand for 2014.
Obama could be setting the stage for a strike against the 22 Republican governors whose terms are up in 2014, possibly with his Organizing for America political arm going all-out for their Democratic opponents who favor implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Or he could have his eye on using grass-roots veterans from his 2012 re-election campaign to mobilize on behalf of Democrats running for state legislative seats — the goal being to weaken the hand of Republican-run legislatures who tell their governors they want no part of Obamacare.
For the most part, Republican governors have refused to set up exchanges within their states that will allow people to go to on-line portals and choose a health care plan. One notable exception is Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has come up with a unique compromise in which the state has a partnership with the federal government in the exchange.
Obama may have been referring specifically to the case of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who sent out signals that he wanted to expand TennCare — the name for Medicaid in the Volunteer State.
However, the super-majority Republican conferences in both houses told him that in no way did they want anything to do with Obamacare. Haslam now says the state won’t participate in the health care exchanges.
Some GOP chief executives have taken other approaches as seven Republican governors have signed up and accepted federal tax dollars to expand Medicaid, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most outspoken critics of Obamacare, surprised Republican and Democrat alike when he signed up in February.
As the Washington Post reported on Feb. 21, “Republican-led states now account for nearly one-third of those expected to take the federal government’s money to expand Medicaid up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line.”
Should governors choose not to build the exchange, then the federal government gets into the act and sets up the exchange.
“The governors know what they are doing in not participating in the exchange,” a Republican Capitol Hill staffer told me.
“They know that between the cost and connecting disparate computer systems, this is not going to work in the long run. So they are saying, ‘Let the feds try it. Just leave me out of it,’” said the staffer, who has worked closely on Obamacare implementation issues.
Obviously Obama sees the issue of implementation and its eventual outcome differently to many of the Republican governors. Based on his comments at Tuesday’s news conference, there is now some evidence he and his political allies might try to do something about it.
John Gizzi is a special columnist for Newsmax.com.
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