Reid: Koch Brothers Want to ‘Buy America’

Harry Reid

The Nevada lawmaker and majority leader made a similar claim on the floor of the Senate, and his Republican peers interpreted his comments to mean that all so-called Obamacare “horror stories” that have circulated are untrue. The emphasis placed on “true stories” in the senator’s tweet does seem to suggest that he believes that the negative experiences with the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges are fabricated to further a political goal. His intentions may have been as harmless as to draw attention to the fact that “real Americans” have been helped by the healthcare reform championed by the Obama administration. But, regardless of what he meant to convey, the comment forced Reid on the defensive as GOP lawmakers expressed their outrage.

In Republican speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnets, the Koch Brothers, “We heard about the evils of Obamacare; about the lives it’s ruining,” Reid said on the Senate floor. But “those tales turned out to be just that, tales,” he continued. “Lies, distorted by Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.” Reid argued that the Koch Brothers are at the bottom of these distortions. “These two brothers are trying to buy America” by spreading headline-grabbing lies about Obamacare, he stated forcefully. “The Koch Brothers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars telling Americans that Obamacare is bad for them. But the Kochs should stick to what they know — the oil business. Because the truth is simply more powerful than any myth, any legend, or any false political ad,” the senator concluded.

“Democrats have our own stories to tell — true stories,” Reid argued. “True stories of average Americans whose lives have changed for the better because of the Affordable Care Act. True stories of families that rest easier knowing insurance companies can never again put profits first and people second.” He then proceeded to cite the story of Jane and Brett Thomas of Henderson, Nevada. Jane Thomas wrote to Reid, telling him she was “ecstatic” to be saving $1,200 per month on what the senator called “a top-of-the-line, family insurance plan” thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Reid explained that previously, Jane Thomas was “locked into her job” as a school teacher for years because she needed the guaranteed health insurance for her husband and children. But through the affordability of exchange-based insurance, “Jane was able to quit her teaching job to spend more time with her children and help out her husband at the family’s small business,” the Senator recounted.

He also told fellow lawmakers not to take his “word for it,” and quoted what Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote last week for the New York Times. “‘What the right wants are struggling average Americans, preferably women, facing financial devastation from health reform. So those are the tales they’re telling, even though they haven’t been able to come up with any real examples.’ Republicans are ‘just making stuff up,’ Krugman writes,” noted Reid.

While he maintained that, “Democrats don’t have to make things up,” he was forced to clarify the remarks he made about how Republicans distorted the nation’s experiences with the healthcare reform. He explained the lies to which he referred were only meant to describe the the “vast majority” of stories featured in ads funded by the conservative action group, Americans for Prosperity, and not the complaints of everyday Americans. On Wednesday, Reid commented that he believes the organization uses actors in their advertisements to tell fake stories about cancelled policies and higher premiums that have resulted from the healthcare reform.

As for Americans for Prosperity, its President Tim Phillips responded to Reid’s assertions by telling Fox News that the Senator had effectively “attacked the character and integrity of every American who had the courage to share how they’re being hurt by the president’s healthcare law.” In particular, Reid denounced an Americans for Prosperity television ad that featured a leukemia patient who said she would die without her medication, but her previous policy had been cancelled. Critics have questioned the validity of that story, although the organization has stood by the ad. Koch Industries Inc. has maintained the brothers were not responsible for that ad, calling Reid’s remarks “disgraceful,” in a statement acquired by Reuters.

Similarly, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota has demanded Reid apologize to those that have been negatively impacted by the Affordable Care Act. “The Majority Leader this morning questioned the validity of the stories that Americans throughout the country have been sharing about the struggles they are facing thanks to Obamacare,” he stated in a Wednesday press release. “The majority leader, and any Democrat who agrees with him, owes an apology to all Americans who are suffering under this disastrous law and whose personal stories he has dismissed as ‘untrue.’”

In the long history of Obamacare battles, this type of exchange is by no means unusual. The Democrat party — and the Obama administration in particular — is still struggling to defend the the healthcare reform, which has by no means been an unmitigated success. The rollout of its its cornerstone provision, the exchange system, was rocky, non-Obamacare compliant policies were cancelled en masse last fall, and enrollments in the exchange system have been slow to gain momentum. The Obama administration announced earlier this week that approximately 4 million Americans had signed up for insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces, but Republicans are still eager to point out the flaws of the reform, and the barrage of anecdotes makes it difficult to sift out the facts. Both Republicans and Democrats are drawing on the experiences of average Americans with great gusto because the failure or success of the healthcare reform will mean major campaign issues for the two parties, respectively. While politicians on both sides of the aisle will argue the point, how the healthcare changes impacted the lives of average Americans varies greatly depending on a whole host of factors — from income to age to health status to state of residence.

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