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.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4965) }}

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.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4966) }}

“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.

What We're Following See More »
These (Supposed) Iowa and NH Escorts Tell All
8 hours ago

Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:

  • Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
  • Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
  • They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
  • One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
Restoring Some Sanity to Encryption
8 hours ago

No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”

What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
8 hours ago

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Hillary Is Running Against the Bill of 1992
8 hours ago

The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”

Trevor Noah Needs to Find His Voice. And Fast.
9 hours ago

At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”