Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm wants to repeal last year’s landmark health care reform law — but he was derided as a hypocrite last week for saying that he intended to take his federally provided coverage so he would not become a “burden on the state” if he became ill or incapacitated.
“What am I, not supposed to have health care?” Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) told the Daily News last week, moments after being sworn in. “It’s practicality. I’m not going to become a burden for the state because I don’t have health care and, God forbid, I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. … That can happen to anyone.”
Indeed, it can, wailed Democrats — who pointed out that the controversial health care overhaul that passed along party lines when the Democrats were still in control of the House was designed to prevent tens of millions of uninsured Americans from becoming the same kind of “burden” that Grimm mentioned.
“That was fast,” Michael Czin, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee told the New York Observer. “After railing against health care reform as a ‘government takeover,’ Grimm is defending his rights to have the same type of health care he wants to deny his constituents.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer was quick to make political hay out of Grimm’s comment, encouraging all Republicans opposing the health care reform to decline their coverage.
“It was a central value to us when we passed health care that members of Congress should get the same health care as everyone else,” Schumer told reporters. “It seems unfair that house Republicans want to deprive middle-class Americans of the same health care as members of Congress, but to keep it for themselves.”
The blogosphere was particularly harsh.
“Grimm campaigned against ‘Socialized medicine,’ and even signed a pledge to repeal Obamacare if he got elected,” noted Who Hijacked Our Country, a blog. “And now that he’s been elected, he goes into a panic at the thought of not having taxpayer-financed medical coverage for himself. [His comments] spell out, in crystal clear logic, why everyone needs access to health care.”
A headline on Michaelgrimmfactcheck, a blog, said it all: “Michael Grimm strikes again.”
“Tell us, Congressman Grimm, why do you support something for yourself that you are so opposed to for others?” the writer added. “Your congressional salary is more than enough for you to purchase your own health care.”
Grimm took a few days to fire back at his critics, doing so on Sunday at his ceremonial swearing-in in Dyker Heights.
“[These Democrats] are trying to make the new Congress divisive and the [health care] debate taking place shows the ignorance of those asking the questions,” Grimm told this paper. “It’s complete nonsense and political grandstanding — and it’s my job to completely ignore those people.”
He added that any employee in his position would understand his motivation.
“Anyone offered health care through their job should take it,” he said. “If I was working for some corporate entity, wouldn’t I be taking their health care?”
Grimm accepted the same federal employee health care package that he received during his time as an FBI agent. A portion of it is paid by his salary, he noted.
That said, the freshman lawmaker, who defeated one-term Rep. Mike McMahon in November after McMahon had also opposed the health care bill, has repeatedly called President Obama’s signature reform a “job killer.”
“When I took this job, my main goals was to move the economy forward,” said Grimm. “[Health care reform] is hurting the economy.”
Not so, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan agency that provides cost estimates and budget projections on pending legislation. The agency believes that killing the law may hurt the economy even more.
The group told new Speaker John Boehner (R–Ohio) last Thursday claiming that repealing the health care legislation would actually increase the national debt by $230 billion over the next decade and leave 32 million Americans uninsured.
Boehner quickly dismissed the findings as biased. On Sunday, Grimm followed suit.
“[The findings] are completely false,” he said. “If you look at the numbers, they double-counted both Social Security and Medicaid, which they shouldn’t have. We are going to save $2.6 trillion dollars if we repeal this bill.”
The GOP-led Congress was poised to that this Wednesday, but Boehner suspended all upcoming votes in the wake of the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D–Arizona) on Saturday. Giffords had been targeted by former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who even put the congresswoman’s district in rifle crosshairs — a post that is still on Palin’s Facebook page.