Hatch on Obamacare tax: ‘Calling it progress is a cruel joke’

Jenna Barnes | Contributor

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama broke his promise to not raise taxes on middle class Americans by requiring those who opt against buying health care coverage to pay a fee, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Monday.

“Obamacare is a massive tax increase on American families and businesses,” Hatch, a Utah Republican, said in an address at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. “That, my friends, is what I call a broken campaign promise. For sure, it’s just one of many.”

Under the health care law, those who choose not to have health insurance by 2016 will have to pay a $695 fee.

“Calling it progress is a cruel joke,” Hatch said.

Hatch cited a Congressional Budget Office report that projected about 75 percent of people paying that tax in 2016 will make less than $120,000.

That’s why Hatch said he will work to repeal Obamacare if re-elected to a seventh term in the Senate.

“The repeal of Obamacare will be my first, second, and third priority,” he said.

It would also be the first order of business for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and House Speaker John Boehner, Hatch said.

But Republicans would need the political trifecta – control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives – for the repeal to be successful.

In addition to slamming the fee requirement in the Affordable Care Act, Hatch lashed out against the law’s Medicaid expansion plan. While applauding the Supreme Court for allowing states to opt out of the expansion, he said the opt-out isn’t really much of a choice.

“It made states make a choice with a gun to their head,” Hatch said. “I don’t believe states can afford these Medicaid expansions.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday that his state would opt out of the Medicaid expansion.

The expansion would extend Medicaid coverage to 16 million uninsured people.  Because states pay for a portion of Medicaid coverage, the federal government would offset most of the cost increases.

To successfully overhaul health care, Hatch said, Republicans must focus on the key issue of lowering costs. Hatch said their replacement plan will be scrutinized to see if can cover as many people as Obamacare, but universal coverage is not the goal.

“We cannot succumb to the pressure to argue on the left’s terms,” he said.

Hatch even threw in an analogy he was sure Obama would understand.

“The golfer cannot fix the fundamentals of his swing by throwing money at the club, and the same is true for health care coverage,” he said.

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