Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

August 31, 2013

Fact Check: 'Train wreck' ad goes off rails

A conservative TV ad misconstrues Sen. Max Baucus’ infamous “train wreck” statement to claim “there’s bipartisan agreement that Obamacare isn’t working.” A Baucus aide tells us that the Democratic senator “remains a major supporter of the law,” and that the ad takes his words out of context.

It’s true that Baucus warned four months ago of “a huge train wreck coming down.” But Meaghan Smith, an aide to the Montana senator, said, “He was clearly commenting specifically on a concern he had regarding one aspect of implementation of the law - the rollout of the public awareness campaign,” not the law itself.

The Senate Conservatives Fund went on the air with the TV ad Aug. 27. It features Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and urges viewers to tell Congress to “defund Obamacare.”

Cruz opens the ad by saying, “There’s bipartisan agreement that Obamacare isn’t working. Democratic Senator Max Baucus, the lead author of Obamacare, says it’s a huge train wreck.” The screen shows the words: “Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) ‘I just see a huge train wreck coming down … and I don’t see any results yet.’ “

But Baucus didn’t say “Obamacare isn’t working,” and he wasn’t referring to the law itself when he said “it’s a huge train wreck.” He was referring to the education and outreach efforts of the administration during implementation of the law.

The ad uses a snippet of a five-minute exchange that Baucus had with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at an April 17 budget hearing. Baucus said he was “very concerned that not enough is being done so far” to educate small businesses and individuals about the law. He told her he had been hearing from constituents who “have no idea what to do, what to expect.” Baucus pressed her for details on the administration’s outreach efforts.

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