Hurt pledges to defund health-care reform: Good politics, but is it good policy?

Robert Hurt’s move to sign the pledge to pull funding from the health-care reform measure passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March is good politics. It’s probably also bad policy, but you could say that policy is the province of those who are good at politics first.

“By signing our pledge, Hurt has taken a leadership position in calling for the defunding of ObamaCare as the first necessary step to fully repealing and replacing this unconstitutional, job-killing, fiscal train wreck. Americans and Virginians would have a friend in Congress with Robert,” said Alex Cortes, a one-time Bob McDonnell campaign staffer-turned-chairman of

Attempts made by to reach the Hurt campaign for comment on the move by the Fifth District Republican congressional nominee to sign the pledge were unsuccessful. Lise Clavel, the campaign manager for Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello, did issue a statement to the AFP on the Hurt pledge.

“Robert Hurt’s dangerous plan to defund the health-care reform law would put health insurance companies back in charge of your care, raise prescription drug costs for seniors, increase costs on small businesses, allow insurance companies to drop people’s coverage when they get sick and allow them to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Virginia’s hard-working families won’t stand for it, and Tom will fight to make sure they don’t have to,” Clavel said in the statement.

Whether or not Republicans could be successful in squelching the reform effort by defunding it is immaterial as far as the November elections are concerned. The move isn’t aimed at initiating a policy discussion, but rather at pushing what the GOP thinks will be a hot button with voters in the fall.

“Opposing the health-care bill and the process that led to it here in the Fifth District is pretty good politics,” University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Isaac Wood said. “You have people here upset not only with the final bill, but with the way that it was conducted. For the most part, a lot of people felt that you didn’t have a great degree of transparency in the process, that Obama in particular had promised transparency when he ran in 2008. As a result you have a lot of people who are upset and basically want to go back to square one. That’s where this idea of either repealing it or defunding it originates from.”

The effect of this early move by Hurt is Advantage: Hurt, to Wood’s reasoning.

“One of your main goals at the outset is to decide the turf on which the battle will be fought. That’s what you’re seeing the Hurt campaign starting to do here,” Wood said. “They know the issues that they want to talk about, and one of them clearly is health-care reform. it may not be the most salient issue anymore. People’s passions may have cooled somewhat since the March vote, but still, for the most part, the politics is on the Hurt campaign’s side of this issue. Some of the public opinion has turned more positive about health-care reform in general, but in this district, I’d expect that you’d find a great many voters still upset, and the degree to which that becomes a key issue in this race could really benefit Robert Hurt.”

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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