Famous Last Words on Obamacare by Former Congressmen Who Supported It

By Barbara Boland | March 21, 2014 | 12:14pm EDT

The Affordable Care Act (nicknamed "Obamacare") was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, so this seems an apt time to take a look back at members of Congress who voted and defended the bill - and then had to leave Congress because of their vote that fateful day.

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) served for 18 terms in what was considered one of the safest seats in the House from 1975 to 2011. Oberstar said the Affordable Care Act was something "that I proudly voted for" and that "health insurance company bureaucrats'' stand between patients and doctors, denying coverage and caring only about corporate "bottom lines."

Raymond "Chip" Cravaack, Oberstar's opponent in his bid for reelection, promised that his "first priority" would be to scrap Obamacare.  Oberstar replied, "I want to make sure that never happens."

It seems Minnesota disagreed with Oberstar, voting newcomer Cravaack to be their new representative with a margin of 48% to Oberstar's 46%.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D. Pa.) served in Congress from 2007, but after voting for Obamacare, he found himself having to defend the law against opponent Pat Toomey.

"It is the responsibility of those who worked on this effort of securing affordable care for all Americans to now explain to people the ways they can and will benefit," Sestak told Pennsylvania voters in August 2010.

"We are providing millions of uninsured Americans with quality, affordable health care, delivering much needed relief to seniors in the form of prescription drug benefits, and offering tax credits to small businesses to enable them to provide coverage for their employees. These initiatives are especially timely after so many working families lost their jobs and savings during the recession."

Eighty different government and non-government agencies attended the event to help Sestak explain how simple and affordable Obamacare would be.

In a live debate against Sestak, Toomey said that Obamacare "endangers" doctor-patient relationship and the benefits that follow by imposing artificial constraints. "Two trillion in spending... half trillion in new taxes... but now many are threatened by losing their coverage," Toomey added. It's "not affordable."

Sestak was defeated by two percentage points by Toomey in 2010.

Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) was elected in 1984.

The day after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, Rockefeller said,

"...we are creating a more secure and reliable health care system that works for every American: where those who are uninsured finally have someplace to go for care; where those with health insurance know that the coverage they count on (and pay for) will be there when they need it; and where a profit driven insurance industry cannot play mercilessly with people's lives or steal their hope for a healthy future."

But in April 2013, Rockefeller said the law "is so complicated and if it isn't done right the first time, it will just simply get worse."

He added, "I am of the belief that the ACA is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress.... [I]t's just beyond comprehension."

On January 11, 2013, the six-term senator announced he would not seek reelection in 2014.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) held his Senate post from 1993 until he lost his bid for reelection to Tea Party candidate Ron Johnson by a 52-47% margin.

During his reelection bid, Feingold defended his support for Obamacare. He told a large crowd that had gathered for a listening session with him in August 2009 (before the bill passed) that there would likely be no health care bill before the end of the year - and it might not pass at all - which caused the 150-citizen crowd to burst into applause.

"Nobody is going to bring a bill before Christmas, and maybe not even then, if this ever happens," Feingold said. "The divisions are so deep. I never seen anything like that."

At the same town hall, Feingold said, "There's no way we're changing this [bill] to offer public funding of abortions," Feingold said. "Nobody wants to open up that issue in the middle of this. That's one thing you won't have to worry about."

Despite that broken promise, Feingold never backed down in his support for the Affordable Care Act. Ron Johnson attacked him heavily for his support of the bill, and this relative unknown bested the U.S. Senator of 18 years.

"On to the next fight! On to the next battle in 2012!" Feingold said after announcing his loss to Johnson on Election Day.

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was one of the holdouts whose vote eventually secured President Obama's signature health care law. Nelson decided to retire rather than defend his vote for Obamacare and face what would have been a tough reelection bid.

He also increased his salary over five times by accepting a position with NAIC where, as Politico puts it, "Nelson's post-Senate gig offers cynics one of those 'only in Washington' moments: the conservative Democrat who nearly doomed the president's landmark health care law is getting paid to help carry it out now that he's in the private sector."

Some Democrats who lost their seats due to Obamacare are unapologetic. Take Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) for example. He told MSNBC, "I was one of the 63 House Democrats who lost their seat in the epic 2010 election that was fueled by the Tea Party and their angst against Obamacare.... I'm damn proud I stood up and voted for Obamacare. It was the right thing to do, even if it did cost my reelection."

Others have regrets.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D.-Pa.) wrote in a 2011 press release for Democrats for Life of America: "I would have never voted for the final version of the bill if I expected the Obama Administration to force Catholic hospitals and Catholic Colleges and Universities to pay for contraception... We worked hard to prevent abortion funding in health care and to include clear conscience protections for those with moral objections to abortion and contraceptive devices that cause abortion. I trust that the President will honor the commitment he made to those of us who supported final passage."

Dahlkemper was defeated by Republican businessman Mike Kelly by 11.4%.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.), who led a group of pro-life Democrats and with Dahlkemper, held out until they received false assurances from the administration that the ACA would not cover sterilizations or abortions.

Stupak says in a column he penned for USA Today, "During the final debate on the Affordable Care Act, I engaged in a colloquy with Chairman Henry Waxman reaffirming that Americans would not be required to pay for abortions or violate their conscience by participating in or promoting a procedure they find morally objectionable. In response, we received an ironclad commitment that our conscience would remain free and our principles would be honored."

"With our negotiations completed and our legislative intent established by the colloquy, we agreed to an executive order directing federal agencies to respect America's longstanding prohibitions on government funding of abortion and most relevant here, to respect longstanding protections for individuals and organizations conscientiously opposed to participating in or facilitating abortions...." Stupak wrote.

No longer a member of Congress, Stupak has now filed an amicus brief in support of lawsuits against Obamacare by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. These cases are set to be heard by the Supreme Court.

"...We, as American citizens, should not be required to relinquish our conscience and moral convictions in order to implement the Affordable Care Act," Stupak said in his piece aptly titled "Contraception Mandate Doublecross."

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