Republican operatives over the weekend used field work for the mid-term elections to take a swipe at President Obama's health care law, while the president strongly condemned GOP criticism of his reforms as obstructionism of the highest order.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee set up billboards Friday in Iowa — the hottest political backdrop of the moment — to lambast Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, for his support of the Affordable Care Act, which will be fully implemented in the coming months.
They also doled out "walk cards" that depict Mr. Braley as an old-fashioned ballplayer who's going to bat for Mr. Obama.
The ads mark the NRSC's first swipe at Democrats after the Obama administration recently decided to let federal lawmakers and their staffs keep the government subsidy that offsets much of their insurance premiums costs — even though they will enter state-based health exchanges under Obamacare.
"Braley wants to be exempted from Obamacare, while forcing it upon hard-working Iowans," NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama on Saturday offered one of his strongest defenses to date of his signature domestic achievement, lambasting his Republican critics for what he called playing politics with the well-being and economic security of millions of Americans. In blunt terms, he used his weekly address to describe health insurance as a "right" and distinguished states that have embraced his law from those that have not.
He said the law is already helping young adults stay on their parents' health plans and offering free preventive care.
"But there's also a group of Republicans in Congress working hard to confuse people, and making empty promises that they'll either shut down the health care law, or, if they don't get their way, they'll shut down the government," he said.
"Think about that," he added. "They're actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they've been sick — and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process. And many Republicans are more concerned with how badly this debate will hurt them politically than they are with how badly it'll hurt the country."
The political tit-for-tat over the law comes less than two months before state-based insurance markets start to enroll Americans without employer-based insurance so they can buy coverage with the help of government subsidies.
Mr. Obama is trying to counteract critics who say the law's mandates amount to an unprecedented intrusion on Americans' personal health care decisions and could cause premiums to soar, as it requires insurers to cover more services and people with pre-existing conditions.
House Republicans have voted roughly 40 times to repeal either all or part of the health care law, and Senate conservatives want to use the upcoming spending debate as leverage in the fight to defund Obamacare.
Republicans also are turning up the heat in select states. In Louisiana, the NRSC lists support for Mr. Obama's law as one of several "misfires" by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu in an ad that riffs off the classic Nintendo game "Duck Hunt."
Ms. Landrieu, who joined the Senate in 1997, is up for re-election in 2014 and among the top targets for Republicans hoping to regain the chamber by picking off Democrat-held seats in right-leaning states.
Mr. Braley, meanwhile, has served in Congress since 2007 and is seeking re-election under the slogan "Braley Works for Iowa."
His campaign website touts endorsements from groups of farmers, firefighters and carpenters in Iowa, and says he first ran in 2006 "to stand up for middle class families who didn't have a voice in Washington."
While Republicans see pro-Obamacare sentiments as a liability, the president said staunch opposition to a law on the books is not what Americans deserve.
"A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they'll somehow be sticking it to me," Mr. Obama said. "But they'd just be sticking it to you Some even say that if you call their office with questions about the law, they'll refuse to help. Call me old-fashioned — but that's lousy constituent service."
He said states like California, New York, Colorado and Maryland are revealing the true potential of his law, because they embraced it from the start.
"So I'm going to keep doing everything in my power to make sure this law works as it's supposed to," he said. "Because in the United States of America, health insurance isn't a privilege — it is your right. And we're going to keep it that way."
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