Sen. Claire McCaskill’s once rock-solid support for a key component of President Barack Obama’s national health care reform law appears to be wavering.
While saying she still backs the individual mandate portion of the law — the controversial section requiring that virtually every individual carry health insurance or pay a penalty — the Missouri Democrat said Thursday that she is searching for alternatives.
“I think there are different things we could look at to see if they would work, and I’m open to that,” she said.
Passed in March, health care reform remains a political lightning rod in Washington. House Republicans continue to promise a vote to repeal the law, although it would face an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate. And even if it did pass in Congress, Obama almost certainly would veto it.
McCaskill, a freshman Democrat and Obama ally, is expected to face a difficult re-election race in 2012, with her support for the health care law destined to become a major issue. On Thursday, University of Virginia political scientist and election prognosticator Larry Sabato described her as “very vulnerable” and already in a “toss-up” race.
Republicans pounced on McCaskill’s comments, first made on MSNBC.
“It sounds like Sen. McCaskill’s re-election strategy is based on her hope that Missourians have a very short memory,” said Chris Bond, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Of course, voters know that McCaskill gave President Obama the crucial 60th vote to ram the Democrats’ government health care bill into law against their wishes.”
In Missouri, Republican Sarah Steelman, a former state treasurer who already has announced plans to run for McCaskill’s seat, wrote on Twitter that McCaskill backed “Obamacare” but now was “looking at alternatives.”
“Try following the Constitution and honoring freedom,” Steelman wrote.
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