House Obamacare Hearing Turns Disastrous for Republicans

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent takes a look at Rep. Cory Gardner and his political maneuvers around Obamacare, and includes a link to today's House Committee hearing in which Gardner tries desperately to get insurance executives to answer his questions in the most anti-Obamacare fashion possible. You can see from Gardner's five minutes of questioning below that he is growing increasingly frustrated that he's getting unexpected answers to his questions (if the video doesn't cue up for you, fast-forward to the 1:32:53 mark):

The panel of insurance providers seems genuinely confused about what Gardner is asking them, since most of their replies are along the lines of, "We don't have that information." This isn't just a dodge to the question — one executive tries to explain to Gardner that the statistics he seeks come from the health exchanges themselves. Gardner then shifts tactics to ask the executives to offer up numbers "off the top of their head" on the number of insurance plans cancelled. Off the top of your head??? Way to get to the bottom of this, Scooby Doo.

Gardner's final question in the clip above is about whether it was Obamacare or the policy of the individual companies that prompted sending out "massive cancellation notices." The answers from the group are about letters of cancellation (most of which included offers to renew with a similar plan), and not about actual policy cancellation numbers, but a frustrated Gardner just talks over them and says , "So, Obamacare required the cancellations." Uh, no, that's not what the man said, nor is that the question you asked, Congressman. But if you can't get people to say what you want — just put words in their mouth!


We've said many times in this space that it would be foolish for Republicans to hope that they could win big in November based on Obamacare alone. Republicans have been railing on Obamacare virtually non-stop going on five years now, and without any sort of viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act — and with enrollment and uninsured numbers starting to show significant progress — Republican attacks are increasingly sounding very hollow.

Cory Gardner.

Hey, that was NOT the negative answer I was expecting out of you!

As Elise Viebeck reports for The Hill today, an anti-Obamacare hearing before the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (of which Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner is a member) turned into a complete disaster when Republicans weren't getting the answers they were fishing for:

Republicans were visibly exasperated, as insurers failed to confirm certain claims about ObamaCare, such as the committee's allegation that one-third of federal exchange enrollees have not paid their first premium. Four out of five companies represented said more than 80 percent of their new customers had paid. The fifth, Cigna, did not offer an estimate. [Pols emphasis]

Republicans also stumbled in asking insurers to detail next year's premium rates. Companies are still in the process of calculating prices, and they have a strong financial incentive not to air early projections in public…

…The back-and-forth underscores the growing divide between Republicans and the insurance industry over the healthcare law. Insurers have worked hard to make the Affordable Care Act's exchanges successful and are expected to substantially increase their participation in the system over time.

That has estranged the industry from Republican critics of the law and created an uneasy alliance between health insurance companies and the White House.

Today's hearing, which included questions from Gardner, was apparently so disorganized that many Republican lawmakers left early, allowing Democrats to come to the microphone and take jabs at Republican claims about Obamacare without response. It's incredible that Republicans would hold such a high-profile hearing on Obamacare and not know the answers to questions they planned to ask. One of the primary benefits of holding control of the House is that it allows Republicans to stack the hearing deck in their favor…except when they don't…or when they can't. It may just be that Republicans have spent so much time and effort yelling and screaming about Obamacare that they didn't notice when the rest of the country moved forward.

There is a growing consensus among politicos that Obamacare is no longer be "repealable", and by decling to offer up a serious plan of their own, Republicans are left playing a political game that everyone else has gotten bored of watching. No doubt this is why Gardner last week decided to propose a health care "plan" of his own…albeit the same basic plan that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor proposed last year that quickly went down in flamesGardner seems to know what he should do at this point — he just has no idea how to do it.

In a recent article that appeared in Slate, the author points out troubling poll numbers for Democrats while also narrowing in on the Obamacare problem for Republicans:


[If] I were a Republican strategist, I would advise my clients to ease up on the anti-Obamacare rhetoric. Yes, it’s useful. For as much as the exchanges are populated and the Medicaid expansion is popular (so much so that GOP candidates aren’t sure how to address it), it’s still true that Republicans are stuck on the “repeal and replace” message, even as majorities reject “repeal” as an option. It’s popular with the base, however, and in elections driven by turnout, that’s a strong advantage.

But Republicans shouldn’t take that as an endorsement. As a whole, the public opposes repeal and doesn’t support the GOP’s scorched-earth approach to the law. If the GOP claims a mandate for their opposition, it risks a repeat of 2011, when it destroyed its standing with voters through a series of stunt votes and standoffs. This didn’t doom its presidential chances the following year, but it was an unnecessary obstacle.

The problem for Cory Gardner, as we've discussed before, is that he doesn't have anything else to talk about without Obamacare. Gardner is an incumbent Congressman running an anti-incumbent message based entirely on voters being so unhappy with Obamacare that they'll blame Sen. Mark Udall for implementing the law (even though Udall was just one vote among many). Without Obamacare, Gardner is just a relatively unknown incumbent Congressman running an anti-incumbent campaign against a Democrat who is considerably more moderate on a majority of issues.

You can see why this would be a problem, no?

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. horseshit GOP front grouphorseshit GOP front group says:

    Maybe its just me, but if I were one of the Congressional members who voted to cut the state departments embassy security budget, I wouldn't be throwing this faux outrage around about Benghazi.

    But thats just me.  Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz not so much.  Shameless, hypocritical liars.


  2. DavieDavie says:

    Really? More like "pull some numbers out of my ass, NOW!"

    Gardner then shifts tactics to ask the executives to offer up numbers "off the top of their head" – See more at:

  3. ModeratusModeratus says:

    I assume this means health insurance companies are no longer the devil like they were before Obamacare? Hope that doesn't backfire on you.

    • DavieDavie says:

      Obamacare brought them millions (which will eventually be 10's of millions) of new customers which is good for their business.  They don't need to play the "Stupid GOP Tricks" game.

      They're happy they could keep a public option and the dreaded single payer system off the table (for now).

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