A Republican senator told high schoolers health care isn't a right. Here's his justification

The ethos of the GOP is captured in one speech to high schoolers

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 2, 2017 12:07PM (EDT)

Ron Johnson   (Reuters/Jason Reed)
Ron Johnson (Reuters/Jason Reed)

On Saturday, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told a group of high school students that they do not have a right to health care.

When a student asked him if he considers health care to be a right or a privilege, Johnson replied, "I think it's probably more of a privilege. Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as 'rights' is 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"

After describing everything beyond that "a limited resource," Johnson went on to paraphrase a speech delivered by his Republican colleague Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

"He said the minute you consider health care a right, well, who's going to satisfy that right? And those people that have the skill to satisfy that right, what does that make them if they are forced to provide you with that rightful product or service?"

As Fox News contributor Chris Pergram noted in an editorial on Sunday, the Republican Party has developed an obsession with repealing Obamacare, one that has caused them to harm their popularity by pushing for a series of health care bill that wind up being unpopular due to the fact that they would take health insurance away from millions of people.

"What drives Republicans up the wall is that Democrats managed to run all of the parliamentary traps and artfully thread the legislative needles in such a way that they passed ObamaCare," Pergram wrote.

He later added, "The health care issue has crawled under the skin of congressional Republicans. It viscerally eats at them that they can’t enjoy the same legislative and success on such a complex issue as health care reform."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Health Care Reform Obamacare Republican Party Ron Johnson