Barack Obama and Marco Rubio Battle Over Health Care Law
Around the State
When he spoke in Jacksonville on Thursday, President Barack Obama showcased his signature health care law, drawing fire from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Obama spoke mostly about the economy and infrastructure when he came to the First Coast Thursday, but he did make a few references to the health care law and Republicans standing in the way of his agenda.
“Right now, we’ve seen a group of Republicans in the House, in particular, who suggest they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress has already racked up,” Obama said. “That harmed our recovery back in 2011. It would severely harm it again. It could plunge us back into financial crisis.”
“Now, I've got to tell you our businesses created jobs at nearly twice the pace of the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare, so it's kind of hard to figure how Obamacare is actually the problem, giving people health insurance,” Obama added. “And by the way, tens of millions of Americans now have new benefits like free checkups and cheaper medicine on Medicare. So they don't think that's a problem.
“The point is, with an endless distraction of political posturing and phony scandals and lord knows what, Washington keeps taking its eye off the ball,” Obama continued. “And that needs to stop. We’ve got to stop with the short-term thinking. We’ve got to stop with the outdated debates. That's not what the moment requires.”
Rubio released a video statement on Friday morning in which he responded to Obama’s speech in Jacksonville and called for defunding the health care law.
“In his speech, the president advocated for a variety of economic initiatives. And like most of his ideas, many of them require more spending and a bigger role for the federal government,” the Florida Republican said. “The president has lamented this week on how Washington has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to our economy. But in fact, the most pressing economic threat we face right now is Obamacare, and it’s implementation, and all the president wants to do is postpone some of its more controversial aspects until after the next election. He wants to give more speeches, and he wants to spend more money to convince people that it’s really not that bad.
“Mr. President, it’s not that Washington has taken its eye off the ball,” Rubio continued. “It’s that you refuse to see Obamacare’s failings and, like so many of your policies, when you see a problem, your solution is to throw more money at it. We can’t keep doing this, and we won’t. Several of my colleagues and I have made clear we won’t fund Obamacare as part of the short-term spending bill that is going to be considered here in Congress in September.”
Rubio was referring to a coalition of 11 other Republican senators who sent U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a letter on Thursday in which they called for defunding the law. Other signers included three possible rivals Rubio could face in the 2016 Republican primaries -- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and U.S. John Thune of South Dakota.
Slamming the law as a threat to the economy, Rubio insisted Americans were increasingly standing against it. “Americans from a variety of economic and political backgrounds -- from small-business leaders to labor union bosses -- are raising their voices about what a disaster this law is,” Rubio said. “We should not waste any taxpayer money on a program that hurts small businesses and their workers. We cannot stand by and allow America -- where talent and hard work has always meant that the sky is the limit -- to be destroyed by an Obamacare law that puts a ceiling on people’s dreams and a cap on the aspirations of job creators.
“We can’t allow this to be a place, just like so many other places in the world, where our message to job creators is: ‘Don’t grow too big, or government -- the IRS in specific -- will come after you,’” Rubio said in conclusion. “Defunding Obamacare is a critical first step, and this September we need the American people to stand with us in demanding that not another cent be spent on implementing Obamacare.
Rubio also wrote an op-ed calling for defunding the law which appeared at Fox News’ website this week.
Still, Obama and Rubio did find some room for agreement. In his speech in Jacksonville, Obama had kind words for the immigration reform bill backed by Rubio and the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate. The bill passed the Senate at the end of June with only a handful of Republicans backing it and it faces tough odds to pass the GOP-led House. Rubio’s high visibility on the issue has led some conservatives to become disillusioned with the senator from Florida and could hurt his chances for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
“Over the last six months, the gridlock has gotten worse,” Obama said. “There are a number of Republican senators who are trying to get things done. They passed a strong immigration bill that economists say will boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars. But so far, we haven't been able to get the House Republicans to give it a vote.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.