GOP congressman asks Democrats if they're ready to embrace 'Obamacare'

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said last July, “I take great offense when I hear the word ‘Obamacare.’ There is no such thing.” His colleague, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), called the word “purposefully provocative,” “misleading” and “unfair.”


But now that even President Obama is embracing the word, will other Democrats change their tune?

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) wants some clarity on the issue. Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong reports that Issa wrote to Cummings and Clay to figure out where they stand today.

“Given your past rhetoric, please clarify whether you would like the record to reflect that you still stand behind your earlier statements and believe the Obama campaign’s use of the term ‘Obamacare’ is inappropriate or indicate that you would like the record to reflect the fact that you have changed your position on the use of the term‘Obamacare’ and do not intend to object to its usage in future committee proceedings,” Issa wrote.

Liberals initially recoiled at the term and many news outlets avoided using it. But the law’s official title, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or PPACA, didn’t exactly stick. A blogger at Daily Kos raised the issue in January: “What do we want to call the PPACA?” Among the ideas floated were “ObamaCare” with a capital “C” and “ObamaCARES!”

Two years after the law’s passage, Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager, sent an email encouraging supporters to use the word: “If you’re tired of the other side throwing around that word like it’s an insult, then join me in sending a message that we’re proud of it.” Obama adviser David Axelrod took it a step farther, sending an email with the subject line, “Hell yeah — I like Obamacare.”


Roll Call was unable to get a comment from Cummings and Clay. The newspaper did note that regardless of what Democrats decide, members of Congress still won’t be able to use the term in official mailings to constituents.

“Associating personal identity with legislation is prohibited by the Franking Commission. The use of ‘Obamacare’ falls within that category,” spokesman Steve Dutton said.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he was recently informed he had used the word Obamacare on the House floor four times more than the person who used it the second most.

Asked about the Franking Commission’s policy, King said, “The president can use his middle name but nobody else can, by order of the Franking Commission. And he can use ‘Obamacare’ but nobody else can, by order of the Franking Commission. Double standard!”

Rob Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism operation at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertBluey

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