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Rival to Bustos: Give yes-or-no answer on Affordable Care Act

Incumbent challenged to make hypothetical vote on Obamacare

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, whose district includes Whiteside County, should reveal whether she would have voted for the Affordable Care Act, her election opponent says.

“She owes it to people to say whether she would have supported it or not,” said Bobby Schilling, who served as congressman for 2 years in the 17th Congressional District before Bustos defeated him in the 2012 election. “I would have voted no. The thing is that she won’t give an answer whatsoever.”

In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act – commonly known as Obamacare – squeaked by on a party-line vote in the House.

In that year’s election, Schilling ousted Obamacare backer Phil Hare, a Democrat, with the Republican highlighting his opposition to the health-care law.

In her campaign to unseat Schilling, Bustos, a former East Moline alderwoman, never tipped her hand about how she would have voted on the Affordable Care Act. She still won’t.

In a telephone conference with reporters in November, Bustos declined to answer a question about how she would have voted. She would say only – as she often does – that she wanted to correct problems in the law and opposed repealing it.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama portrayed the law as a success, boasting that 7.1 million people have signed up for the program.

Asked Wednesday about Obamacare, Bustos’ spokesman, Colin Milligan, emailed a two-sentence statement.

“Since taking office, Rep. Bustos has focused on ensuring hard-working Illinoisans have access to the quality, affordable health care they deserve,” he said. “She was encouraged by the surge in enrollment in the health exchange over the last week and will continue to seek common-sense solutions to problems identified, as implementation of the Affordable Care Act moves forward.”

Schilling, who is running against Bustos in November, is making a big issue of Obamacare in this year’s campaign, saying that many 17th District residents have told him the law is a failure. He cast doubt on Obama’s 7.1 million number.

“When you talk about 7 million people being added on, you need to look at how many of the number were uninsured before. Most were not,” he suggested.

At the same time, he said he liked parts of Obamacare – for instance, provisions that ban insurance companies from denying policies to people with pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep their children on their plans until age 26.

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