Sebelius: Obamacare Opponents Are Like Those Who Opposed Civil Rights

Susan Jones | July 17, 2013 | 6:55am EDT
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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (AP File Photo)

( - Addressing the annual NAACP convention in Orlando, Fla., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that opponents of Obamacare are the same kind of people who opposed civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Her comments on Tuesday came one day before the Republican-led House votes to delay key provisions of the law.

"The Affordable Care Act is the most powerful law for reducing health disparities since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act was also enacted," Sebelius said. "That significance hits especially close to home. My father was a congressman from Cincinnati who voted for each of those critical civil rights laws, and who represented a district near where the late Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth lived and preached.

"The same arguments against change, the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then are the same ones opponents are spreading now. 'This won’t work,' 'Slow down,' 'Let’s wait,' they say.

"But history shows that upholding our founding principles demands continuous work toward a more perfect union...And it requires the kind of work that the NAACP has done for more than a century to move us forward.

"You showed it in the fight against lynching and the fight for desegregation. You showed it by ensuring inalienable rights are secured in the courtroom and at the ballot box. And you showed it by supporting a health law 100 years in the making.

"With each step forward, you said to forces of the status quo, 'This will work,' 'We can’t slow down' 'We can’t wait,' 'We won’t turn back.'

Sebelius then hailed the "voices of progress" that "we hear and honor this year," as people start signing up for mandatory health insurance on Oct. 1:

"They echo from church bells rung at midnight 150 years ago to educate our nation of a people’s emancipation. They echo from a speech on our nation’s mall 50 years ago next month about the promise of our nation’s dream. And they still echo and guide us today in a second term of a historic presidency.

"So let us seize this moment. We can’t slow down. We can’t wait. We won’t turn back. We move forward."

In another part of her speech, Sebelius told the civil rights group, "The debate in Washington is over. The Supreme Court has issued its decision. The people have spoken. President Obama was re-elected. And to paraphrase Stevie Wonder, the Affordable Care Act is signed, sealed, and it’s delivering."

Sebelius spoke one day before the House of Representatives votes on delaying the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate as well as its individual mandate.

According to House Speaker John Boehner, the first bill "will provide the authorization the president should have sought" before he unilaterally delayed the employer mandate's reporting requirements. The other bill "will provide families and individuals with the relief they've been unfairly denied by the administration."

Obamacare requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide affordable health insurance to their employees or else pay a fine. Individual Americans are required to purchase health insurance, or else pay a tax to the IRS.

The Senate is unlikely to pass the House legislation, and even if it did, the White House has promised to veto it.

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