The Supreme Court’s bombshell ruling to uphold the health care law presents Democrats with a second bite of the apple, a chance to redefine their message on some of what the law would actually do, not what critics claim.
But it will be tough because Republicans thoroughly out-maneuvered them during the original debate and its aftermath. The canard about “death panels” seems to have died. But several of the more popular charges still stand, even though various nonpartisan fact-checking groups and government data have revealed them to be exaggerations or total falsehoods.
Indeed, within hours of the ruling, opponents of the law were tossing them around again.
John Brunner, a candidate for the GOP Senate primary in Missouri, aired a new radio today critical of the ruling, claiming that the health care law “cuts Medicare for seniors.”
Alleging that the law slashes $500 billion from the government insurance program for those over age 65 has been one the Republicans’ most persistent attacks. But it has been debunked numerous times by both nonpartisan watchdogs, like Politifact.com and the Fact Checker in The Washington Post, as well as the Congressional Budget Office.
The law cuts $500 billion from Medicare over 10 years, but not from benefits to seniors. It is a reduction in the rate of growth and savings will result mostly from cutting the annual payments to Medicare providers.
Asked for evidence to justify the claim, the Brunner campaign supplied a brief clip of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on "Meet the Press" referring to a $550 billion cut from Medicare in the health care act. But the clip provided no context and Kerry says nothing about cuts to seniors, as the Brunner ad claims. Kerry could very well have been - and presumably was - referring to the cuts in the rate of growth in payments to providers.
Brunner spokesman Todd Abrajano said that Medicare was a program "overwhelmingly designed for seniors," adding "we stand by the statement in the ad and are confident that there's nothing non-factual in the statement that Obamacare '"cuts Medicare for seniors.'"
The Brunner ad also repeats the charge that Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who he would face should he win the GOP primary, “was the deciding vote for Obamacare.” Critics have said the same thing about other Senate Democrats who supported the law and who are up for re-election this year, like Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana.
But it was actually Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, who was the holdout and who finally agreed to support the bill that put it over the top.
Brunner repeated another questionable claim about the health care law in a press release Thursday on the heels of the ruling. The headline stated in part, “Court affirms McCaskill voted for what is likely the largest tax increase in U.S. history.”
The Supreme Court said Thursday that the law is, indeed, a tax increase by invoking Congress’ power to tax as the premise that underscores its constitutionality. But Politifact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact check site of the Tampa Bay Times, looked into this claim, citing data from the Treasury Department and Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, and found that it doesn't add up.