Vice President Kamala Harris gushed Tuesday that it “feels good” to have former President Barack Obama at the White House before the 44th president teasingly referred to President Biden as “Vice President Biden.”
The popular 60-year-old former president received a rock star’s welcome in the White House East Room to celebrate the 12th anniversary of ObamaCare.
“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Harris chuckled as Obama made his first public appearance at the White House since leaving office in 2017.
Obama stepped up to the lectern and drew laughs when he acknowledged “Vice President Biden” before adding, “That was a joke.”
Biden didn’t appear to think he was being shown up by his former boss during the unusually jovial event, where few people wore anti-COVID-19 face masks.
“Mr. President, welcome back to the White House, man. It feels like good old days,” Biden said after introducing himself as “Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice president.”
“Being here with you brings back so many good memories. We just had lunch together. We weren’t sure who was supposed to sit where,” Biden added.
Although Obama lives about 2 miles from the White House, has kept his distance from the Biden administration and his Tuesday visit is believed to be his first time back since he left office in January 2017.
Obama, the first black president, was elected to two terms with broad majorities. He was re-elected in 2012 by a 5 million-vote margin over Republican candidate Mitt Romney and remains broadly popular among Democrats.
After speaking, Biden signed an order boosting health insurance subsidies in order to eliminate what he called a “family glitch” that made it difficult for low-paid workers to buy health insurance for family members via ObamaCare.
Biden said that “200,000 presently uninsured Americans are going to gain coverage and nearly 1 million Americans will see their coverage become more affordable” as a result of the change.
ObamaCare, passed in 2010, contained popular provisions that allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26 and regulated how health insurance companies treated people with pre-existing conditions.
But other provisions in ObamaCare were less popular, including a mandate that people buy private insurance policies or face a fine. Republicans repealed that policy in 2017. Some GOP-led states, meanwhile, resisted the law’s expansion of Medicaid for lower-income people.
Obama joked Tuesday about the botched 2013 launch of Healthcare.gov, through which people were supposed to be able to buy insurance policies.
“Let’s face it, it didn’t help there when we first rolled up the [Affordable Care Act], the website didn’t work. That was not one of my happiest moments,” Obama said.
But Obama said the bill “secured the principle of universal health care.”
“The analogy I’ve used about the ACA before is the same way that was true for early forms of Social Security, Medicare, it was a starter home,” he said. “It secured the principle of universal health care, provided help immediately to families, but it required us to continue to build on and make it better.”
Biden hosted Obama as he suffers badly in polls amid a series of crises, including inflation and illegal immigration hitting four-decade highs as the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions drag on. Biden’s support in polls plummeted after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and Democrats are bracing for a midterm election drubbing.