House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was on the defensive Thursday at a news conference convened, in part, to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law.
The California Democrat, backed by Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., spoke in support of the law she helped to craft and pass — despite the fact that its rocky rollout has made it a problem for vulnerable House and Senate Democrats facing tough re-election races this year.
That conversation has been reignited in the wake of last week's defeat of Democrat Alex Sink by Republican David Jolly in the Florida special election to succeed late-Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Sink ran on a platform of "fix, not repeal" regarding the 2010 health care law.
"Just because people say, 'I don't want to repeal it but I want to fix it' doesn't mean they're walking away from it," Pelosi said, pointing out that the Florida special election took place in a swing district.
When asked by a reporter whether Obamacare was becoming a liability in midterm election campaigning, Pelosi replied, "I believe it's a winner.
"And by the way," she corrected, wryly, "it's called the Affordable Care Act. Affordable Care Act."
Pelosi strongly rejected the premise that Democrats were running from, rather than embracing, the health care law, saying that Washington, D.C., journalists do not see how well the law is faring in districts across the country.
"This isn't about politics, this is about the health of America. This is about standing tall," said Pelosi. "We don't weigh its value as to what it means politically, we weigh its value as to what it means to the health, well-being, economic security of America's families.
"Change is hard," Pelosi said of the growing pains that have arisen as the law has gone through implementation. "This is transformational in the lives of American people."
Pelosi and Van Hollen, former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also argued that the post-Citizens United landscape has allowed outside groups allied with Republicans to spend massive amounts in ad campaigns to undermine the health care law.
"Citizens United [came] just in time for them to put out all their misrepresentations about the Affordable Care Act, and that's hard to counter," Pelosi said.
"It's hypocritical and grossly misleading," Van Hollen added.