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Ackerman calls GOP’s bluff

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) echoed Clint Eastwood in what he has framed as a “dare” to Republicans to vote for a series of health-care bills he recently proposed.

“Go ahead, make my day,” Ackerman said, citing a line famously spoken by Eastwood’s character, “Dirty” Harry Callahan, in the 1983 film “Sudden Impact.” “Become a co-sponsor.”

Ackerman said last Thursday he “dares” his colleagues in the GOP to support the bills, all titled the HIPA-CRIT Act — which stands for “Health Insurance Protects America — Can’t Repeal It.” The bills, which Ackerman said he sponsored to “call the GOP’s bluff” on Republicans’ battle cry to repeal the federal health-care reform act, would repeal key measures of the legislation passed earlier this year.

The bills would overturn six of the major consumer protections of the new health-care law, including not denying coverage to adults and children because of pre-existing conditions, banning plans from dropping those who get sick and allowing children to remain on the policies of their parents until age 26.

“This will be the big chance for Republicans to do what they’ve vowed to do,” Ackerman said. “These bills will be their chance to at long last restore liberty and repeal the evil monster they’ve dubbed ‘Obamacare.’”

A number of the incoming GOP members of Congress have vowed to repeal the health-care bill, which Ackerman’s unsuccessful Republican challenger, Dr. James Milano, contended was a priority of his. Twelve states have also filed lawsuits against the federal government to reverse the health-care bill.

“These are great safeguards that improve coverage for all Americans,” Ackerman said. “Republicans wouldn’t dare vote to do away with them despite their campaign pledge to do so. But I’m calling them out on it and dare the GOP to vote for these bills.”

Ackerman and about 60 of his fellow Democratic colleagues, including Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), also last week called on incoming Republican lawmakers who want to abolish the health-care bill to decline their own health-care benefits.

“For months, Republicans have been shoveling out hypocrisy and lies to the American public, and it ends here,” Crowley said in a statement. “It is time for Republicans to put their proverbial money where their mouth is. If they want to deny Americans access to health care, they should not accept taxpayer-subsidized care for themselves.”

The Labor union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees´╗┐ echoed the Democrats’ statement last week.

“These Republicans want to repeal health reform, putting the insurance companies back in charge and putting affordable coverage out of reach of millions of Americans,” AFSCME President Gerry McEntee said in a statement. “If they enroll in the taxpayer-funded health-care system provided to members of Congress, they deserve to be denounced as hypocrites.”

A recent Marist poll reported 51 percent of the country wanted to keep or expand the health-care law.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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