Senate Debate: Is ‘Obamacare’ Derogatory?

Mar 29, 2012

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania say efforts to use a state constitutional amendment to block the federal health care law are largely symbolic, but the debate in Harrisburg has devolved to a discussion over semantics.

The White House may have come to embrace the term "Obamacare" as the moniker for the federal Affordable Care Act, but Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate aren't quite there yet. During floor debate, Senator Tony Williams (D-Philadelphia) tried to ban the use of the word "Obamacare," arguing that it's not politically correct.

"What it does do is characterize a particular partisan perspective of policy that is actually law in this country," said Williams. "To my knowledge, there is no piece of federal legislation or any legislation that denotes something called 'Obamacare.'"

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Elk) countered Williams. He said the term isn't overly partisan, because it's become common parlance among all of the constituents in his district. "They call it Obamacare: Republicans, Democrats, independents, seniors, everyone. So if, indeed, we're slighting anyone — just grow up."

There was some confusion over how exactly to put Williams' complaint into action on the Senate floor. The Senate paused to consider rules of order, and how to make an official motion.

About an hour after the exchange, the Senate approved the proposed constitutional amendment, sending it to the House for a concurrence vote. It would need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions, and then clear a voter referendum before it becomes law.