The troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act has given the GOP an opportunity to keep its attacks on the law alive.
On Monday, Republicans held the second of at least four planned hearings that Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has said will focus on health insurance price increases he blames on the Affordable Care Act.
The first hearing was in North Carolina on Friday, in the Charlotte suburb of Gastonia. At the hearing, Issa — a fierce opponent and critic of the law from its introduction as legislation — struck a very low-key tone in his opening statement, describing the ACA as the law of the land.
"We're not here to question that act or its validity," Issa said. "Why we are here today is to review what is happening in light of its rollout."
Issa also called for a bipartisan approach to fixing the law, but this event was anything but bipartisan, starting with its title: ObamaCare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Healthcare Coverage.
Issa was joined by two Republican congressmen from North Carolina. There was also a list of five approved witnesses; all were critical of not just the rollout but the law itself.
Dan Waters owns a nearby insurance agency. He spoke of the endless questions he's been getting from customers.
" 'I like my current plan. Why can I not keep it? Why do I have to pay for benefits I will never use, such as maternity benefits? Birth control? Pediatric vision and dental?' " Waters said.
Joel Long runs a large commercial roofing business in Gastonia. He says the company shares the cost of health insurance for its employees, but businesses cannot operate on unknowns.
"We cannot plan or budget what do not know or understand," Long said. "As we work to understand the law, we now see the confusion of those charged with its implementation."
And so it went for two hours. Issa defended the one-sided witness list, saying Democratic committee members declined to attend and did not submit requests for any witnesses. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, issued a statement calling the hearing "a destructive political exercise" with the goal of tearing down the Affordable Care Act.
In Gastonia, the voices of dissent were outside where about 50 protesters gathered.
Skip Edwards of Asheville says he needs the Affordable Care Act because of a pre-existing medical condition. The 63-year-old says that he applied to be a witness before the committee, but got no response.
"It's staging," Edwards says. "It's only to solicit negative complaints without telling a balance. It's a sham."
Issa has more such hearings scheduled. Next month, he'll be in Arizona and Texas, and it's just one piece of the broader GOP effort to use the Affordable Care Act's troubled rollout as way to keep the issue hot throughout the 2014 election year.