Health care got more attention on Tuesday than it has had in a State of the Union since 2010, as President Obama defended the Affordable Care Act while using the high-profile speech to make a pitch for enrollment — and he even took a chance to needle the law’s critics.
“Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application,” Obama said. The administration is set to spend millions of dollars over the next two months to encourage people to enroll in the health care law’s new coverage option, and Obama’s direct appeal during the State of the Union was another clear sign that the White House believes its best political argument is simply to get as many people covered as possible.
But that didn’t stop the president from taking a few cracks at Republicans for their fixation on repealing Obamacare — or, at least, holding symbolic repeal votes to squeeze Democrats ahead of this year’s midterms.
“If you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice — tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up,” Obama said. “But let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans. … The first 40 were plenty.”
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear won a shout-out from the president for successfully implementing a state-run insurance exchange in a deeply red state. Kentucky has one of the most effective exchanges in the country.
“Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families,” Obama said.
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President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”
It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.
Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.