Ben Sasse, a university president and former Bush administration official, is running for Senate in Nebraska as an ardent foe of Obamacare. But Nebraska state treasurer Shane Osborn, Sasse's GOP primary opponent, is out with a new TV ad that undercuts Sasse's message:
The Osborn ad quotes Sasse as saying that Obamacare is an "important first step," the individual mandate "might be a good idea," and Obamacare won't be repealed.
The veracity of each claim varies. Osborn's accusation that Sasse "gave up" on repealing Obamacare is clearly dishonest. In fact, Sasse merely said that Republicans "lack[ed] the votes" to repeal or defund Obamacare so long as Democrats control the Senate and the White House. That's accurate, and it doesn't imply that Sasse has given up on repealing the law.
It's true that Sasse wrote in July of 2009 that there was "emerging consensus that [the individual mandate] might be a good idea," but he wrote that in an article attacking Obamacare. Sasse didn't explicitly endorse the mandate nor did he criticize it in principle, but he did note that "it's unclear how the mandate would be enforced or what fines would be appropriate."
It's also true that Sasse said that Obamacare was "an important first step on thinking about the coverage problem in the American health care system." But Sasse immediately added that "the underlying problems that drive the growth of uninsurance are not being addressed by ducking the larger entitlement problems. And a coverage-only bill that just says, 'We could pay for more things out of taxes,' that doesn’t have any underlying connection to the reality of why the uninsured are growing in America is not a solution, even to the Democrats who advocate it.”
None of these statements have led Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a physician and leading opponent of Obamacare, to doubt Sasse's opposition to the president's health care law. "As a physician who has dedicated much of my life to protecting patients from harmful government interference, if I had a shred of doubt about Ben Sasse’s commitment to fighting Obamacare I never would have endorsed him," Coburn said in a statement released by the Sasse campaign. "Ben will arrive in the United States Senate not just as an Obamacare opponent, but as a leader in the movement to replace this misguided law. I’m proud to support Ben and am disappointed to hear misleading claims from his opponent. We need leaders like Ben who will unite Americans, not divide them with Washington-style attack politics."