Story highlights

Today is 2nd anniversary of Obama's landmark health care reform measure

Bill is "heap of broken promises," said GOP official

Romney picked apart "Obamacare" in speech

Santorum's campaign released statement: "Romneycare = Obamacare"

CNN —  

The second anniversary of President Barack Obama’s signing into law the landmark and controversial health care reform measure brought, as expected, fierce attacks from Republicans.

“Today is the two-year anniversary of Obamacare, but President Obama is not celebrating. He would rather Americans forget about his signature ‘accomplishment,’ because today it is a massive, undeniable failure and a heap of broken promises,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in a statement Friday.

The comments from Priebus were echoed by many other GOP politicians and lawmakers.

Obama signed the top domestic legislative achievement of his presidency into law on March 23, 2010.

At the time, Democrats, emboldened by a new president and big gains in Congress, pushed the sweeping legislation to expand coverage for uninsured Americans, clashing with Republicans who branded the bill “Obamacare” and warned it would trigger an unprecedented intrusion by Washington into people’s medical decisions. The bill was passed through Congress basically along party lines.

The issue became a central part of the 2010 midterm elections, helping the Republicans to a historic 63-seat pickup as they won back control of the House of Representatives.

The 2012 GOP presidential candidates have made rolling back the new health care law a central promise of their campaigns. Front-runner Mitt Romney, campaigning in Louisiana a day ahead of that state’s Republican presidential primary, used the health care anniversary to forge ahead with his strategy of pointedly attacking the White House instead of his GOP rivals.

Romney methodically picked apart “Obamacare,” blaming the president for stifling economic growth with a law that he said most people want to repeal.

“You’ll note the White House is not celebrating Obamacare today,” Romney said at an campaign event in Metairie, Louisiana. “The president is not giving speeches on Obamacare and that’s for a reason. Most Americans want to get rid of it, and we’re among those Americans, I want to get rid of it too.”

Health care has been a sensitive matter for Romney throughout his 2012 White House bid because he signed a plan similar to Obama’s when he was governor of Massachusetts and called his state plan a “model for the nation.” Many Republicans consider the 2006 Massachusetts law, which included an individual mandate, the inspiration for the national health care law.

Romney now claims that such a mandate is unworkable on the federal level. He made no mention of the Massachusetts law in his remarks on the campaign trail, but did defend his law in an op-ed Friday morning in USA-Today.

“When I was governor of Massachusetts, we instituted a plan that got our citizens insured without raising taxes and without a government takeover. Other states will choose to go in different directions. It is the genius of federalism that it encourages experimentation, with each state pursuing what works best for them,” wrote the former Massachusetts governor. “Obamacare’s disregard for this core aspect of U.S. tradition is one of its most egregious failings.”

Romney’s top rival for the nomination, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, argues the former governor would be the weakest candidate to compete against Obama based on the issue.

On Friday, Santorum’s campaign released a hard-hitting statement, saying “Romneycare = Obamacare” and leveled charges that Massachusetts now allows for “free taxpayer funded abortions” with co-pays starting at $50. The GOP presidential campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign has also attacked Romney over the abortion issue.

Polling conducted earlier this month indicates Americans are divided when it comes to support of the health care law. According to a Pew Research Center survey 47% of the public supports the measure, with 45% opposed. But just as important, 53% say the bill should be expanded or left as is, with 38% saying it should be repealed.

Stand Up For Religious Freedom rallied outside the office of Health and Human Services urging the Obama Administration to rescind health care mandates requiring businesses to provide their workers with insurance coverage for abortions and contraceptives.

“I stand firmly against the HHS mandate which would force not only sterilization and contraception but abortifacient drugs on our religious institutions and not just on our religious institutions but on us, every one of us, everyone that is an employer in our country,” said Lila Rose, head of the pro-life group Live Action, giving her interpretation of what she thinks the mandates would do.

The protesters filled an outdoor square at the HHS building and said they will resume protesting outside the Supreme Court on Sunday.

CNN’s Paul Steinhauser, Peter Hamby, Ashley Killough, and Deirdre Walsh all contributed to this story.