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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Same Tactic, Different Candidate in Nebraska

Club for Growth Action takes a newspaper article out of context to portray Republican Nebraska Senate candidate Sid Dinsdale as “really liberal” because he said “Obamacare has some good aspects.” But the two “good aspects” Dinsdale cited have been included in most Republican alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.

If that preceding paragraph gave you a vague sense of deja vu, that may be because we recently wrote a nearly identical item about an outside group attacking Dinsdale’s opponent, Ben Sasse, by lifting a quote out of context — that “Obamacare is ‘an important first step’ ” — to misleadingly portray Sasse as a closet fan of Obamacare.

The ad from Club for Growth Action uses a similar tactic on Dinsdale.

According to the ad’s narrator, “Dinsdale even says Obamacare has some good aspects. That’s really liberal.”

Small print in the ad cites a May 1 story in the Imperial Republican as its source. Here’s what that story said:

Imperial Republican, May 1: Dinsdale said he struggles with the Affordable Care Act. While it has some good aspects such at portability and waiving pre-existing conditions, there are also down sides. One is how to pay for the 30 million uninsured people who are now eligible for health care.

So the full sentence notes that the “good aspects” include “portability and waiving pre-existing conditions.” Are those “really liberal” ideas, as the ad says? Only if the most popular alternative health care bills offered by Republicans are too.

Take H.R. 4038, the Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act, which was introduced on Nov. 6, 2009, by Republican Dave Camp and co-sponsored by House Speaker John Boehner and 26 other Republicans. In a fundraising letter, Boehner boasted that the bill “expands coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.” The Republican staff on the Ways and Means Committee further noted that the bill would “improve insurance portability.”

Or how about H.R. 3400, the Empowering Patients First Act? Republican Rep. Tom Price, who introduced the bill on July 30, 2009, said it “solves the insurance challenges of pre-existing conditions and portability.” The bill was co-sponsored by 54 Republicans (peruse the list and you’ll see many of the most conservative members of the House).

And finally, we draw your attention to H.R. 2520, the Patients’ Choice Act — introduced in the House by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin– and its Senate companion, S. 1099, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Writing about the bill, Ryan said it “restores the idea of portability to health coverage” and would “ensure coverage for those with preexisting conditions.”

None of these bills ended up passing, but the point is that portability and coverage for people with preexisting conditions have been two aspects of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans have consistently attempted to incorporate into their alternative health care plans, albeit in different ways.

Moreover, Dinsdale’s praise of “portability and waiving pre-existing conditions” in the Affordable Care Act doesn’t mean he thinks the law is redeemable. On his campaign website, Dinsdale states, “Obamacare cannot be fixed, it must be repealed.”

Dinsdale, president of Pinnacle Bancorp, goes on to say that since the ACA was passed, “numerous costs and regulations have been added which have been detrimental to many people and businesses throughout Nebraska and the United States. … Obamacare is the largest tax increase in US history and is a textbook example of government overreach and how it is stifling the growth of small business and preventing them from creating jobs.”

We should note that in his position statement on Obamacare, Dinsdale takes a subtle jab at Sasse, saying, “Obamacare was not an important first step for health care.” As we said earlier, that’s an out-of-context misrepresentation of Sasse’s position as well.

Club for Growth, which has endorsed Sasse, had previously focused its attacks on former State Treasurer Shane Osborn. But with Sasse’s internal polling showing Dinsdale moving into second behind Sasse, Club for Growth has taken aim at Dinsdale. Also competing in the Republican primary seeking to replace Sen. Mike Johanns, who is not running for reelection, is attorney Bart McLeay. The primary is May 13, which means there’s still a little bit of time to find out the candidates’ actual positions.

— Robert Farley