With empty Democrat seats to his right, committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) speaks during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee to vote on the cabinet nominees on Capitol Hill, February 1, 2017 in Washington.(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah is a member of the Senate health care working group

His comments were an apparent reference to expanded programs under Obamacare

Washington CNN  — 

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch warned Tuesday that efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the Senate might be complicated because once the public “is on the dole, they’ll take every dime they can.”

The comment by one of the key Senate architects of the ongoing rewrite of the massive health care law, suggests Republicans are skeptical Americans will be unwilling to give up benefits provided for under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Some components of Obama’s signature health care law, such as the expansion of Medicaid in many states, would be cut back in the House’s version of the bill that was approved last week.

As he left a meeting in the Capitol of the Senate health care working group, which is trying to craft compromise legislation that can pass the Senate without Democrats, Hatch was asked by a reporter, “How does the public’s perception of what the House did affect what you are doing?”

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“The public wants every dime they can be given,” he said. “Let’s face it, once you get them on the dole, they’ll take every dime they can. We’ve got to find some way of getting things under control or this country and your future is going to be gone.”

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray blasted Hatch’s comments.

“People who are getting access to health care are not on the dole,” Murray said. “They are working families. They are, by circumstances most of us hope we don’t get into, have a very seriously ill child or spouse. This is America. Certainly, we don’t call people who need health care people who are on the dole.”

Hatch is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that has jurisdiction of Medicaid and other health care issues. He is also the longest serving Republican in the Senate.

What to do about the expansion of Medicaid is a key sticking point in Senate talks. Some Republicans from states, like those from purple states the expanded the federal/state program for health insurance for low-income Americans, are working to keep it while some conservatives from states that did not expand are looking to get rid of the expansion in order to save money.

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