The Senate’s most senior Republican apologized Friday for making what he said was a "a poorly worded joke about Obamacare supporters."
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, on Thursday said Obamacare “was the stupidest, dumbass bill that I've ever seen.” And if you like the Obama-era health care law? Well then “you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I've ever met.”
"Yesterday, I made a poorly worded joke about Obamacare supporters — a joke that was not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side," Hatch said Friday afternoon. "While I occasionally slip up, I believe that my legislative record reflects my commitment to bipartisanship and civility much more than my flippant, off-the-cuff comment.”
Hatch who has been known to make jokes in conversations with reporters, gave his remarks during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, Thursday. Hatch, the chair of the Finance Committee, helped write the tax reform bill that passed Congress late last year.
The bill ended one major piece of Obamacare: the individual mandate. The mandate required people to either buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
“This was one of the most regressive taxes in the tax code with lower-income families paying most of the freight,” Hatch said.
While the passage of the tax bill means the individual mandate is gone, Senate Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare last summer.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was surprised to hear Hatch use the words he did.
“He’s usually a very polite man,” Schumer said on CNN after he was shown a clip of Hatch’s speech. "I guess he sort of lost it on that little clip you showed. But, he’s just frustrated because the American people are against what has been drummed into the head of Republicans. Repeal it, repeal it, repeal it."
But while the law isn't perfect, Schumer said, "it's done a lot of good." Polling during the repeal fight found that the majority of Americans supported keeping the current law in place or updating it but not a full repeal. And the current Kaiser Family Foundation has Obamacare's approval rating at the highest since 2010.