WASHINGTON – With a dozen words, President Barack Obama offered a campaign argument that he’s counting on to turn his health-care law from a liability into a winner for the November elections.
“This thing is working,” Obama said at the White House yesterday. “The repeal debate is and should be over.”
Obama’s announcement that 8 million people enrolled for insurance coverage, a million more than estimates made six months ago, marks a comeback for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act after its botched rollout last year.
The political stakes are high for the president’s party. Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats to take control of the chamber, and of 36 being contested in November Democrats are defending 21.
Obama’s statement was offered to Democrats as a counter punch to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to repeal the law and have made it a central issue in the mid-term elections.
Republicans say they’ll keep on swinging.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, posted on Twitter as Obama’s news conference was still under way, saying, “The repeal debate is far from over.”
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, also reiterated his party’s intent to repeal the law and the message its candidates will try to drive home to voters.
“Countless Americans have unexpectedly been forced out of the plans they had and liked, are now shouldering dramatically higher premiums, and can no longer use the doctors and hospitals they choose,” he said in a statement.
Obama’s main objective is to make the point that the law is here to stay, according to an administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss strategy. He plans a two-pronged counter to the Republican message by highlighting how much it would cost Americans to lose benefits under the law, and that the repeal efforts are being made at the expense of other legislation that would benefit the economy.