A day after Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch disparaged Obamacare supporters as the "stupidest, dumbass people" he has ever met for embracing the "stupidest, dumbass bill" he has ever seen, he issued a statement apologizing.
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“Yesterday, I made a poorly worded joke about Obamacare supporters—a joke that was not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side. Throughout my term of service, I have always recognized the importance of civility, particularly in engaging with those of different political perspectives. While I occasionally slip up, I believe that my legislative record reflects my commitment to bipartisanship and civility much more than my flippant, off-the-cuff comment," the statement read.
The Utah senator initially made the comments Thursday during his keynote speech on the Trump administration's new tax law at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C.
Throughout his speech, he used tongue-in-cheek humor.
"We also finally did away with the individual mandate tax that was established under that wonderful bill called Obamacare. Now if you didn't catch on, I was being very sarcastic," he said Thursday morning.
The repeal of the individual mandate, a part of Obamacare that requires most Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance, was a later addition to the new tax bill. The repeal will kick in next year. He also talked about the ACA as a whole.
"That was the stupidest, dumbass bill I've ever seen,” Hatch, 83, said of the Affordable Care Act. “Now some of you may have loved it — if you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I've ever met. And there are a lot of them up there on Capitol Hill from time to time."
But many Americans beg to differ.
A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed record-high public support for the Affordable Care Act; 54 percent of Americans now view it favorably. Since March 2010, the health care act has reached over 50 percent just twice in the monthly surveys.
The Kaiser Family Foundation pins the Affordable Care Act's greater popularity on political independents. Nearly eight in 10 Republicans still have an unfavorable view of the law.
The poll also found that costs are the top health care issue voters want to be addressed in the campaign leading up to the 2018 midterms.
Hatch, who called himself the only senator to support Donald Trump throughout the election, said Thursday he thought Trump would be the "only one who might pull us out of the mess we're in."
"He still has a lot of work to do to be able to do that, but he's just entrepreneurial enough and crazy enough to do it, in my eyes, and he has the guts to go out and do it, despite what the media is saying about him and what other people are saying about him," Hatch, who's chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, said at the event.
Hatch is slated to retire at the end of the year. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has announced he will run for the seat.
"I don't want to make this event awkward for anyone," Hatch joked, "but if anyone knows anyone who's hiring, please put a good word in for me."