As tough general election kicks off, Menendez highlights health care gains

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Sen. Bob Menendez brought home some federal bacon to folks at the Metropolitan Family Health Network in Jersey City. It’s one of 19 community health centers across New Jersey that will share a $45.8 million federal grant to help low-income residents like Tyronica Washington.

“They treat you equally. Like you’re one of them, not better than. Like you’re their child, or you’re one of their family,” Washington said.

“At a time when there is so much focus on what’s wrong with health care, it’s great to be celebrating what is right about it,” said Menendez.

Menendez fought attempts to cut this funding and said health care’s under assault by the Trump administration. The Department of Justice last week told a federal court in Texas it would no longer defend crucial Obamacare provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions.

“You can disagree with the law, but you’re not free to disobey it. And at the end of the day, what the administration is doing is putting at risk the health insurance of millions of Americans,” Menendez said.

New Jersey’s attorney general joined 13 other states to fight the Texas lawsuit, although Jersey’s health care regulations protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy signed New Jersey’s own version of the individual mandate last month. That requires people to carry health insurance and helps stabilize the marketplace. Menendez also condemned House Republicans for voting to rescind, or claw back, $7 billion in funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“I don’t understand how the party of family values undermines those values, by undermining children. I don’t get it. I don’t get it. So we’re going to fight the rescissions package in the Senate,” Menendez said.

This was Menendez’s first local news conference after last week’s Democratic primary, when four out of 10 voters chose a relative unknown, Lisa McCormick. Menendez won, but McCormick tallied an unexpected 158,000 votes against the two-term incumbent. Meanwhile, Republican opponent Bob Hugin’s already launched a furious ad assault excoriating Menendez for his corruption trial that ended last fall in a hung jury and citing the Senate Ethics Committee letter that severely sanctioned his behavior.

Inevitably, ethics attacks will fuel this campaign battle where both sides have millions to spend.

“I hear the voters, and I will continue to do the only thing I know how to, which is to get up and fight for them. Whatever mistakes I may have made, I have never been mistaken as to who I fight for, and what I’m fighting for,” Menendez said.

Menendez notes he got 92,000 more votes than Hugin and condemned the former Celgene CEO for gouging cancer patients by hiking drug prices by millions of dollars. Pundits expect the campaign to be very expensive and very nasty.