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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Want To Have It Both Ways On Obamacare

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLES DHARAPAK
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLES DHARAPAK

Repealing Obamacare has been the defining goal of the Republican Party over the past several years. Even in the fourth election cycle after passage, nearly every single GOPer running for office has publicly promised to repeal the legislation if given the chance. On Tuesday, the GOP-controlled House voted for the fourth time to totally dismantle the health care reform law, largely to allow freshman lawmakers the opportunity to cast their own anti-Obamacare votes.

However, Republican opposition has not been entirely unwavering. Indeed, more than a half-dozen potential GOP presidential aspirants have records that are littered with embraces of particular Obamacare provisions:

CHRIS CHRISTIE: The firebrand New Jersey governor welcomed Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in his state, calling it “the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health.” Unlike some other Republican governors who were hesitant about the large federal subsidies, Christie argued that they would “provide health insurance to tens of thousand of low-income New Jerseyans, help keep our hospitals financially healthy and actually save money for New Jersey taxpayers.” It is estimated that Christie’s support for Medicaid expansion will result in 300,000 low-income New Jersey residents receiving health insurance.

MIKE PENCE: The Indiana governor and trendy pick for the GOP nod embraced a modified form of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion earlier this year. (The plan would enroll some low-income Indianans in a local market-based alternative to Medicaid.) “I have long believed that a society can be judged with how it deals with the most vulnerable,” Pence said when announcing the move to take millions in Obamacare funds, noting that as many as 350,000 Indiana residents could gain health coverage as a result. Indiana is currently waiting for a waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the move.

ALLEN WEST: The controversial former congressman from Florida is a possible dark-horse candidate for the Republican nomination. However, if West runs, he will have to defend remarks he made to ThinkProgress in 2012 defending some of the key tenets of Obamacare. The Tea Party favorite voiced support for the young adult coverage provision — “If people want to keep their kid on their insurance at 26, fine” — protections for people with previous illnesses — “We’ve got to make sure no American gets turned back for pre-existing conditions” — and bolstering Medicare Part D — “Keep the donut hole closed, that’s fine” — all of which are key elements of Obamacare.

SCOTT WALKER: Another leading contender for the nomination, Gov. Walker has been as adamant an Obamacare critic as there is, with Wisconsin coming in dead last in state spending per capita to conduct Obamacare outreach. However, after President Obama prevailed in the 2012 election and it soon became clear that Obamacare would remain law, Walker began encouraging state agencies to help Wisconsinites transition onto Obamacare plans. He told the Washington Examiner earlier this year, “Even though I’m obviously not a supporter (of Obamacare), I don’t want people to fall between the cracks.”

RICK PERRY: In 2011, while running for the GOP presidential nomination, Gov. Perry of Texas argued during a debate that, “If we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to health care, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more health care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is mandating today.” Two years later, instead of touting Texas’ existing high-risk pool program, Gov. Perry signed a bill in 2013 to abolish the existing program and instead encourage high-risk individuals and those with pre-existing conditions to enroll in Obamacare’s federal marketplace. In addition, Perry was caught last year quietly requesting funds from the law — estimated at around $100 million — to help elderly and disabled Texans.

JOHN KASICH: Though Republicans have long implored to their base that they can and will repeal Obamacare, the Ohio governor dismissed the idea during a rally just before the 2014 election. “That’s not gonna happen,” Kasich declared. He criticized his Party’s opposition to expanding Medicaid as “really either political or ideological,” but, “I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood and real improvements in people’s lives.” Kasich was one of the first Republican governors to embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, even going around the state’s Republican legislature. The move provides health care for nearly 300,000 low-income Ohioans.

These presidential hopefuls are guilty of trying to have it both ways. They loudly denounce Obamacare to appease their right-wing base, but quietly support specific provisions that are politically convenient.

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The disconnect also reflects the American public’s muddled views on health reform. Large portions of Americans support the law’s individual provisions, yet say they don’t like Obamacare as a whole. Polling has consistently found that people are confused about what the law actually does.