Shortly after Republican leadership finally pulled back the curtain on the health care legislation they have been working on in secret for weeks, reaction—much of it critical—began pouring in. None was more forceful or unequivocal than the reaction from former President Barack Obama.
In a lengthy post published on Facebook, the 44th president beseeched Republicans in the Senate to consider the ramifications of the bill, which will strip health insurance from tens of millions of people, raise costs for millions more, and eliminate Medicaid protections that an estimated 75 million Americans rely on.
“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America,” said Obama in the post. “It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”
It’s unusual for a former president to weigh in so emphatically and so publicly on a piece of legislation currently up for debate in Congress, but as Obama himself notes in his post, politics should take a back seat to policy when people’s lives are at stake.
“I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party,” wrote Obama. “Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.”
In his final press conference before leaving office, Obama said it was his intention to step back from the political arena. But, he added, there were some things that would compel him to break his self-imposed silence. “There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” he told reporters in January.
This isn’t the first time Obama has weighed in since Donald Trump took office, either. Less than two weeks after the inauguration, Obama issued a forceful statement condemning the administration’s efforts to ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries (now six countries) and suspend all refugee resettlement. He called on Americans to protest the ban.
Of course, Obama’s 950-word statement wasn’t the only reaction from a U.S. president on Thursday. When asked for a comment about the Senate version of the bill, President Trump said “it’s going to be very good.”