House Members still can’t say “Merry Christmas” in franked mail, but “Obamacare” is now OK — with a catch.
Last fall, lawmakers sparred over whether they could use the term to describe the 2010 health care law in official mass communications.
Democrats said using the term — considered pejorative by many even though President Barack Obama has embraced it — was a breach of the rule that violates use of franking privileges for “personal, partisan or political reasons.”
Now, however, Members can use the unofficial moniker for the Affordable Care Act in taxpayer-financed mailings, but only if it’s in the context of the title of the bill the House passed today. That measure includes the following as its Section 1: “This Act may be cited as the ‘Repeal of Obamacare Act.’”
“There is an established [Franking] Commission precedent that allows for Members to reference the titles of legislation in mass communications,” said Steve Dutton, communications director for Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who is chairman of the commission.
“Any other use of ‘Obamacare’ still does not meet franking standards,” added Greg Abbott, Democratic spokesman for the House Administration Committee, which oversees franking regulations.
The dispute may have run its course, in any case.
Aside from the presidential endorsement, some Democrats have begun a movement to “reclaim” the phrase. During House floor debate on the repeal bill today, backers of the law gave impassioned speeches about the need to preserve — that’s right — Obamacare.
“I am well aware of the fact that there are many Americans, when they hear the word ‘Obamacare,’ they think, oh, somehow it’s a takeover by the government of our freedom, our health care,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said. “But I’m hoping that people will take another look now that the Supreme Court has declared this to be the law of the land and see what advantages there are for you, for individuals.”
“I call Obamacare Leroycare, Mariacare, Senior Citizens Sick Care, Nursing Home Care,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said. “That’s what it is.”
The White House was already getting into the act.
In March, David Axelrod, a top campaign adviser for Obama, sent an email to supporters proclaiming, “Hell yeah, I’m for Obamacare.”
On Obama’s official campaign website, visitors are prompted to enter their email addresses under the heading “I Like Obamacare.” Upon doing so, the next page suggests making a donation.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.