Democratic Senator Says Some Oppose Obamacare Because Obama Is Black

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson responds, “God help you for implying I’m a racist.”

Jay Rockefeller 
National Journal
Michael Catalini
May 21, 2014, 4:20 p.m.

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A seni­or Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or sug­ges­ted Wed­nes­day that Pres­id­ent Obama’s race factored in­to op­pos­i­tion to the Af­ford­able Care Act, spark­ing out­rage on the part of one of his Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues.

The com­ments by Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jay Rock­e­feller of West Vir­gin­ia, who’s re­tir­ing at the end of this year, came near the end of a hear­ing on a pro­vi­sion in the health care law that calls for in­sur­ance com­pan­ies to use most of what their cus­tom­ers pay in premi­ums on med­ic­al care, rather than on over­head and ad­min­is­trat­ive costs.

“I think it’s very im­port­ant to take a long view at what’s go­ing on,” Rock­e­feller said. “I’ll be able to dig up some emails that make part of the Af­ford­able Care Act that doesn’t look good — es­pe­cially from people who made up their mind that they don’t want it to work be­cause they don’t like the pres­id­ent. Maybe he’s of the wrong col­or, something of that sort. I’ve seen a lot of that and I know a lot of that to be true.

“Maybe he’s of the wrong col­or, something of that sort. I’ve seen a lot of that and I know a lot of that to be true.”

“It’s not something you’re meant to talk about in pub­lic but it’s something I’m talk­ing about in pub­lic be­cause that is very true,” he con­tin­ued. “[The Re­pub­lic­an] lead­er in the Sen­ate has com­mit­ted at the be­gin­ning of the pres­id­ent’s term to block every piece of le­gis­la­tion that the pres­id­ent puts for­ward, and they have done that with this ex­cep­tion and there have been oth­er ex­cep­tions, and I find that disin­genu­ous be­ha­vi­or.”

Rock­e­feller’s com­ments drew a heated re­buke from GOP Sen. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, who was elec­ted in the tea-party wave of 2010. John­son was the only sen­at­or to re­act to the com­ment be­cause oth­ers had already left the hear­ing room.

“It was re­gret­table and I would say it was of­fens­ive, see­ing as how I’m the only one in the room here really talk­ing about op­pos­i­tion, that you would play the race card, that you would say op­pos­i­tion to Obama­care ne­ces­sar­ily must stream from, in­ert, in­her­ent ra­cism — very of­fens­ive,” John­son told Rock­e­feller.

John­son went on to praise the health care sys­tem as it was be­fore Obama­care, cred­it­ing it with help­ing his daugh­ter, who was born with a heart con­di­tion.

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“So, no, I didn’t ob­ject to this be­cause of the race of the pres­id­ent,” he said. “I ob­jec­ted to this be­cause it is an as­sault on our free­dom. Mr. Chair­man, I have to ad­mit I have a great deal of re­spect for you and I’m the only one in the room and I found it very of­fens­ive that you would ba­sic­ally im­ply that I’m a ra­cist be­cause I op­posed this law.”

John­son ad­ded: “Please don’t as­sume. Don’t make im­plic­a­tions of what I’m think­ing and what I would sup­port. You have no idea.”

Rock­e­feller replied: “I ac­tu­ally do, you know. God help you.”

John­son: “No, sen­at­or, God help you for im­ply­ing I’m a ra­cist.”

Rock­e­feller: “I did not im­ply you’re a ra­cist.”

Rock­e­feller then veered in­to an­oth­er top­ic be­fore ad­journ­ing the hear­ing.

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