AG Cuccinelli Claims President Obama Is "Backing Down" From The Affordable Care Act

March 01, 2011 2:09 pm ET — Kate Conway

Yesterday, President Obama voiced his support for allowing states to opt out of parts of the health care law in 2014 — if they are able to develop adequate state-based plans that expand coverage. You might think that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), one of the most vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act, would be happy about the offer to give states increased control and flexibility. After all, one of the primary Republican complaints about the law has been that it's an intrusive expansion of federal power better left to the states.

But Cuccinelli, speaking to host Bill Hemmer on Fox News' America's Newsroom, was none too impressed. Instead, he claimed that the offer is evidence that "the incoherence of this whole policy is starting to crumble around them and they're starting to withdraw a bit politically."

HEMMER: But there is a political question in this also? Why do believe he would make this suggestion now?

CUCCINELLI: It is very interesting. Frankly this is falling back for him. This is a concession. I know that in the morning when they talk to their liberal allies they said, "No, no, this will allow some states to go straight to single payer." Of course, they can already do that. That's not restricted under the law. So they aren't really offering the folks on the left anything. That tells me that the incoherence of this whole policy is starting to crumble around them and they're starting to withdraw a bit politically. This is one way to do that. [...]

HEMMER: That's quite a thing to say. You think the signature piece of legislation in all likelihood whether he's a one-term president or a two-term president, you say he's backing down already? That's a big statement.

CUCCINELLI: Absolutely. That's how I see it. I don't think there's any other reasonable way to interpret it.

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The administration's position has always been that states should have the right — and the responsibility — to exert a significant amount of control over the way the health care law is implemented locally. Far from evidence of a "concession," Obama's offer to let states develop their own plans earlier — and the GOP's bristling reaction — is evidence that Republicans are unwilling (or unable) to bring anything to the table when it comes to reforming the health care system.

As Steve Benen suggests, Obama's offer is more of a challenge to Republicans to step it up than a compromise on the part of the administration. "The GOP is convinced it can offer comparable coverage at comparable prices using Republican-friendly policies," Benen writes. "Today, in effect, the president said, 'Be my guest.' Why? Because Obama knows it'll take more than tort reform and HSAs to make the system work, and he sees a political upside to watching GOP officials scramble to actually craft their own plans, rather than bash his."

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