Luke Sharrett, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that the health care law largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court is still bad policy and should be repealed to avoid damaging the economy.
He went even further in his criticism during the taping of his monthly news conference, calling for voters to elect fellow Republican Mitt Romney in November to replace President Barack Obama, the architect of the Affordable Care Act.
"Unfortunately, this administration focused on health care reform, which has been the most divisive issue I've seen in my lifetime since Vietnam. This has divided our country terribly and taken our eye off the ball of economic recovery.
"I do believe if you want to repeal Obamacare, you need to repeal Obama," the governor said. "That's why I'm supporting Mitt Romney. I believe we need someone who understands free market principles."
The governor's statements drew a rebuke from his Democratic opponent, Peter Cooke.
"To make this a political issue like that, as far as I'm concerned, just is emotional," Cooke said. "I'm not going to get political. I just want to say that we need to be starting talking facts and not stirring up our population just to rally them."
Cooke, who wasn't ready to endorse the entire health care law, said Herbert's suggestion that it could simply be repealed and replaced with something better by electing Romney "shows a lack of sophistication."
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said the governor didn't go too far in calling for the president's ouster. "Clearly, it's not a big surprise that Gov. Herbert is not a fan of President Obama," Burbank said.
What is surprising, he said, is how strongly opponents of the health care law are reacting to the court ruling.
"A lot of this sort of reaction and emotiveness from conservatives in particular is a bit over the top. It's not the end of western civilization as we know it," Burbank said. "I don't know quite why there's such a visceral reaction to this."
Other Republican political leaders in GOP-dominated Utah also had sharp words for the Supreme Court decision.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, labeled the ruling "only a temporary and hollow victory" for the law. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said provisions of the law that were upheld amount to "a 'gun to the head' of states."
Both senators, along with Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop, called for a repeal of the health care law. Utah's only Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, stressed he voted against the law and said "there is a lot of work to do in order to achieve the right reforms."
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