Udall's healthcare statements in 2008 provide strategy for GOP

(photo by Denverjeffrey

Lynn Bartels --- The Denver Post 

Republican operatives believe they have found a smoking gun against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who said during a 2008 debate he was against a "government-sponsored" solution for health care.

The then-congressman, who was running for an open seat in the U.S. Senate, echoed arguments made by conservatives.

"I'm not for a government-sponsored solution," Udall said. "I'm for enhancing and improving the employer-based system that we have."

In a debate overshadowed by other issues — rising energy prices and the war on terror — Udall's answer that July barely created a ripple. But in the context of Sen. Udall's vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and his tough re-election bid against Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in November, the statement takes on new meaning.

Udall's vote for the health care law has provided fodder for a number of campaign attack ads.

"Mark Udall was elected on a lie," Gardner said. "Mark Udall promised he would not support a government-sponsored solution and he broke that promise and voted for Obamacare."

Udall's campaign says if Republicans believe they have found a smoking gun, they're simply shooting themselves in the foot because Obamacare is not government-run health care.

"They are grasping at straws," Udall spokeswoman Kristin Lynch said.

The influential PolitiFact bolsters Udall's argument. The Pulitzer Prize winning independent fact-checking website awarded its2010 Lie of the Year to the claim that the Democratic law amounted to a "government takeover of health care."

" 'Government takeover' conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed ... relies largely on the free market," PolitiFact concluded.

(Three years later, PolitiFact awarded its 2013 Lie of the Year to President Obama's claim, echoed by Udall, that: "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.")

The goals of health care reform included increasing the quality and affordability of health insurance and lowering the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage.

Since taking office in 2011, Gardner has voted 52 times to repeal Obamacare.

The Washington Post last month reported, "Obamacare is hurting Democrats as the 2014 election approaches," but the law is not the dominant voting issue, "regardless of how much money is being spent to drive home that point."

Udall's 2008 comment about health care reform came during his first U.S. Senate debate, which was sponsored by the Southeast Business Partnership, now known as the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. Udall faced former Congressman Bob Schaffer for the open seat held by retiring U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican.

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