TheDC’s Political Roundup: Health care edition

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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On Thursday, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Since this has completely stolen the spotlight from almost everything else, this week, Political Roundup will look at several races where Thursday’s ruling will have an affect — in the North Dakota Senate race, where Heidi Heitkamp has been fighting off attacks on Obamacare; and in Wisconsin, where former Gov. Tommy Thompson has been forced to defend a statement he made that many have said proves he supported Obamacare.

1) North Dakota

Obamacare has been front and center in the North Dakota Senate race, with Democrat Heidi Heitkamp fending off attacks on her support for the law as well as her changing position on it.

North Dakota is one of the 26 states involved in a lawsuit challenging the law. Nonetheless, Heitkamp was initially very vocal in her support when it passed in 2010. But earlier this year, she distanced herself from the law a little bit, saying that it had “some good things,” but also had “some serious problems,” including the individual mandate, the North Dakota Blog Flickertales from the Hill reported.

A Thursday statement put out by the campaign after the ruling echoed that sentiment: “Today’s decision is a chance to finally put two years of political posturing and gridlock on pause, and do what’s right for North Dakota,” Heitkamp said. “Moving forward, I’ll work with both parties to control costs, keep the good pieces intact and fix the bad pieces, like the individual mandate.”

Now that she is running for Senate, Heitkamp has taken hits both for her support of the law and for her altered position on it.

In a $180,000 ad buy that began running in North Dakota on Wednesday, pro-Republican organization American Crossroads attacks Heitkamp for her support of the law.

In response, to the Crossroads ad, Heitkamp released a video talking about her own battle with breast cancer and how that has helped form her views on healthcare.

Heitkamp has also been criticized for changing positions on the healthcare law.

“I think that’s just political posturing,” said Heitkamp spokesman Brandon Lorenz. Heitkamp, he said, has been consistent in her message that there are good things and bad things.

Lorenz attacked Heitkamp’s opponent, Republican Rep. Rick Berg, who in a statement Thursday seemed to back away from his call for a complete repeal of the law. Berg’s spokesman told Flickertales from the Hill that the candidate wanted “fiscally-sustainable bipartisan health-care reform that occurs in an open process to protect our most vulnerable residents.”

“We need bipartisan health-care reform that contains a frontier states provision, closes the donut hole, and doesn’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions,” the spokesman added.

Lorenz called it a “pretty shameless flip-flop on the issue.”

Chris Pack, Communications Director for Berg’s congressional office, clarified to TheDC that though Berg felt that some kind of reform was needed in the future, he was “fully supportive of repealing this thing and then starting fresh with these.”

2) Wisconsin

As National Journal Hotline points out, the health-care ruling “couldn’t have been worse” for former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Thompson, who is a Republican candidate for Senate in his home state of Wisconsin, is already fighting off attacks that he previously supported Obamacare.

On Wednesday, Club for Growth, who has endorsed former Rep. Mark Neumann in the Republican primary, released a video of Thompson saying that he supported an individual mandate. Last month, they released a web ad in which President Barack Obama noted that Thompson supported health-care reform.

Politifact called the ads “half true,” saying that there is “evidence to support both positions.”

But with today’s court decision, Thompson’s positions may be back in the spotlight.

“I don’t think it knocks Thompson out, but it adds more sting to the Club for Growth’s attacks on health care,” said Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy.

“I think today’s decision is going to energize Republican voters across the country. Given Gov. Thompson’s previous support for the mandate, I think that should be of concern for him,” said Sean Lansing, a spokesman for Eric Hovde, another Republican primary contender.

3) Texas

U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz is a former solicitor general who has presented oral arguments in several cases before the Supreme Court, and who before that, clerked for then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, so TheDC read his response to the decision with some interest. Cruz not only criticized the result, but went after court itself, saying it has “abdicated its responsibility to safeguard the Constitution, and it has rewritten Obamacare in an ill-advised attempt to save it.”

Cruz also went after his opponent in the race to fill retiring Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat, saying Dewhurst was, “by nature and by over a decade of political office, a conciliator. Now is not a time for conciliation. The Senate will be the battleground on Obamacare, and I intend to lead the fight to repeal every word of it.”

He later held a conference call to attack Dewhurst for not yet signing a pledge to repeal Obamacare, indicating that perhaps Dewhurst was not committed to doing so.

That’s quite a stretch, however. Dewhurst may not have signed the particular pledge, but he released a web ad Thursday entitled, “Repeal Obamacare,” which gives us a pretty good sense of where he stands.

In a statement, Dewhurst called the Affordable Care Act a “monstrous law” and vowed to repeal it on his first day in office.

4) Primaries

Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Charlie Rangel have little in common, but both longtime members of Congress survived primary challenges on Tuesday that threatened to end their long careers in Congress.

Hatch easily fended off a challenge from Utah State Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Liljenquist challenged the longtime senator with the backing of tea party group FreedomWorks, which actually spent more money than the Liljenquist campaign did. But Hatch was prepared for the challenge, and outspent his opponent by a huge margin, easily winning what he has said will be his final term.

New York’s Rangel also survived a primary challenge, though narrowly. With 94 percent of districts reporting, Rangel led state Sen. Adriano Espaillat by a mere thousand votes. The Associated Press called the race for Rangel at that point, though two days later, the outcome remained somewhat murky. Supporters of Espaillat are raising questions about the veracity of the vote, Politico reports.

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