President Obama trumpeted the announcement Tuesday that more than 7 million Americans had signed up for Obamacare and used the accomplishment to hit back at Republicans who pushed for repealing his signature domestic achievement.
“The debate over repealing this law is over,” Obama said from the Rose Garden, highlighting the late uptick in sign-ups through the federal marketplace. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
Obama said that 7.1 million had signed up -- a figure higher than the 7.04 million announced by the White House earlier Tuesday -- surprisingly meeting an enrollment target very much in doubt after the botched rollout of the healthcare.gov website.
"In these first six months, we've taken a big step forward," Obama added. "Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth of health care costs is down."
Armed with the sign-up data, the White House on Tuesday sought to reignite an Obamacare debate that has been politically damaging for Democrats -- one that Republicans still see as the centerpiece of their electoral strategy in November.
“I don’t get it,” Obama said, questioning his GOP rivals. “Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?”
Republicans counter that the White House's celebration was empty since the administration is unable to say how many people have paid their premiums, how many individuals were previously uninsured and what percentage of enrollees are from the youngest demographic.
“Without knowing how many uninsured Americans signed up for Obamacare or how many people have actually paid their premiums, President Barack Obama is taking a premature victory lap for his signature health care law," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
“If the president feels so good about the so-called success of his health care law, then we encourage him to campaign with Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and all the other Senate Democrats who unanimously voted for Obamacare,” he added.
Republicans see Obamacare as their greatest gift in retaking the Senate. And despite the more than 7 million signups, the Affordable Care Act remains unpopular nationally — and especially in red-leaning states home to vulnerable Democrats.
Still, Obama was more than eager Tuesday to get aggressive on an issue that has left the White House on the defensive for months.
As late as Friday, the president even cast doubt on whether the administration would reach its goal of signing up 7 million Americans through federal and state exchanges.
“There’s no good reason to go back,” Obama said, acknowledging the rocky rollout of healthcare.gov and the litany of early problems with the health law.
“Change is hard,” the president insisted. “Fixing what is broken is hard.”
This story was published at 4:59 p.m. and was updated at 5:18 p.m.