Rep. Charles Boustany pounded back in the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s health care speech Wednesday evening, sharply rebuking Obama for what he characterized as a sweeping package steep in costs and short on benefits for families and small businesses.
Boustany, a Louisiana Republican who has worked as a doctor for more than 20 years, reserved his sharpest criticism for Obama’s refusal to strike down a public option.
“The president had a chance tonight to take government-run health care off the table,” said Boustany. “Unfortunately, he didn't do it.”
Boustany also took a shot at Obama for not throwing his weight behind a GOP plan to allow families and small businesses to purchase insurance across state lines.
“I and many other Republicans believe that that will provide real choice and competition to lower the cost of health insurance,” said Boustany. “Unfortunately, the President disagrees.”
Boustany reiterated the GOP argument that it’s time for a reset on reform, saying, “Most Americans wanted to hear the president tell Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the rest of Congress that it’s time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality.”
The GOP response came amid a renewed offensive from Democrats to paint Republicans as unwilling to support health care reform legislation in any form.
Boustany argued that Republicans have put forward a slew of ideas in recent months and pointed to a handful of areas where he said Democrats and Republicans could agree, including expanded access for people who have pre-existing conditions and assistance to those who cannot afford a doctor.
The Louisiana Republican was also quick to argue that Republicans had supported medical liability reform even before Obama signaled his support for it Wednesday night.
Boustany, a little-known third-term congressman from Lafayette, Louisiana, was seen as an unorthodox choice to deliver the GOP rebuttal – a privilege often reserved for high-profile party leaders.
As he prepared for his speech, Boustany found himself under fire from political opponents for suggesting at one point that he was unsure whether Obama was born in the United States. Earlier Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner was asked in a pre-speech news conference whether he was aware that Boustany had flirted with the “birther” movement. Boehner said he was not.
There has also been scrutiny of Boustany’s medical record, with reports surfacing that he was the defendant in at least three malpractice lawsuits in his two-decade career.
And Democrats were quick to pounce Wednesday on reports that Boustany has aspired to British nobility before his career in Congress.
“Given the Republican Party’s fear mongering and countless lies aimed at killing health insurance reform, it's not surprising they chose ‘Lord’ Boustany - whose extreme 'Birther' beliefs are outside the mainstream - to respond to the president of the United States,” said Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.