Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the GOP’s biggest bomb-throwers, isn’t known for his warm embrace of the nation’s downtrodden—or the government institutions that support them. On Monday night, he told Fox News that “there will always be those who slip through the cracks” and won’t have access to affordable health insurance. He asserted the next day that repealing Democratic health reform would leave “less than 4 percent” of the population uninsured—which, he insisted, wouldn’t be the end of the world. “They still have access to health care, they just don’t have a health insurance policy,” King told reporters on Tuesday.
But when pressed to explain what he’d tell vulnerable citizens who’d lose invaluable protections if the GOP repealed reform, King relented—and even explained how he was responsible for creating a government program to help them. “We have SCHIP—the state children’s health insurance program—and that’s set at 300 percent of poverty,” King said, adding later: “I helped put that policy in place when I was in the state senate.”
The Iowa Republican did point out that he opposed raising the qualifying poverty rate for SCHIP to 400 percent, as some Democrats had proposed in 2007. But King admitted that there was, in fact, a definite role for government in providing health care for the nation’s poorest. “There is at the lower level and the poverty level, and I’ve supported that in the past,” he said.
With the GOP in full throttle against the “government takeover of health care” this week, it’s easy to forget how integral Republicans were to the very creation of entitlement programs like SCHIP. While King was supporting the children’s insurance program on the state level, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) teamed up with Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to pass federal SCHIP in 1997. Since then, though, the GOP has become increasingly unwilling to support the program: President Bush vetoed the expansion of SCHIP twice, and it only passed in the early months of the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Republican members like King have conventiently ignored their past support for government health care as they’ve ramped up incendiary attacks on such programs. In a recent interview with Human Events, King accused Democrats of possessing “an irrational leftist lust for socialized medicine.” But when pressed to justify health care repeal to the most vulnerable members of society, even he seems to recognize the need for government support in certain instances.