ATLANTA — Far from reversing course, Senate Democrats who backed President Barack Obama's health care law and now face re-election in GOP-leaning states are firming up their support for the overhaul even as Republican criticism intensifies.
Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina will face voters in 2014 for the first time since voting for the Affordable Care Act — also known as "Obamacare" — three years ago. They aren't apologizing for their vote, and several are pursuing an aggressive strategy: Embrace the law, help voters use it and fix what doesn't work.
"I don't run from my votes," Begich told The Associated Press. "Politicians who sit around and say, 'That's controversial so I better run from it,' just ask for trouble. Voters may not always agree with you, but they respect people who think about these issues and talk about them."
That means, Begich said, reminding voters that as a candidate in 2008 he called for prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on existing health problems, ending lifetime coverage limits and making it easier for workers to leave a job and still have insurance, an option they'll have under new exchanges that consumers can begin using to buy individual policies this fall.
"There's a lot of good that people will realize as this all comes online," the first-term senator said.
Republicans argue just the opposite — that there's a lot of bad in the sweeping law. More than a year before the elections, they use the law to pummel the four Democrats, three of them from the conservative South and all from states that Republican Mitt Romney carried last fall.
Begich highlighted that Senate Democrats have voted to repeal parts of the law: paperwork for businesses and a tax on medical equipment. And he promised aggressive outreach to help constituents use the exchanges and other consumer benefits.