As the process for repealing and replacing Obamacare incrementally advances through Congress, its namesake remains largely absent from the give-and-take of the debate.
President Barack Obama has weighed into the health care fray only occasionally—and always from a distance—even as his eponymous signature piece of domestic legislation comes under heightened threat.
It is not for lack of want. Aides and advisers say that the former president is, like all Democrats, troubled by ability of Republican leadership to keep repeal efforts alive. One official said he did not expect GOP lawmakers to get even this far. But he is wary of engaging in a highly visible way, even in this critical hour, for fear that it would backfire politically.
“We are acutely aware that opponents of the Affordable Care Act would like no better foil than him,” said one Obama advisor. “We don’t want to make this any harder than it is. Allowing opponents to make this about Obama’s legacy undermines the debate about the actual impact of the law.”
For now, Hill Democrats say they’re comfortable with Obama at a distance. Though the party has been unable to stop repeal-and-replace efforts at critical junctures—the most recent coming in the form of a narrowly-lost vote to start debate in the Senate—the prospect of turning the debate into a Obama-v-Trump narrative is viewed as counterproductive.
“I think [Obama] faces a dilemma of potentially becoming the issue and he wants to avoid that distraction,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told The Daily Beast, off to the side of a Capitol Hill rally featuring individuals whose health care is dependent on Obamacare-related coverage. “He may be at the emotional breaking point… but I think he is intensely rational and deliberative and he has thought through what would happen if he became the image of this fight and he has decided it is better that the image be the kind of people we have here.”
There have been two components to date to Obama’s post-presidential involvement in the repeal and replace debate—one public, the other private. When the Senate introduced its health care legislation in late June, he blasted the “fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation” in a Facebook post. Since then, he’s been quiet.Read More...
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