Sen. Orrin Hatch apologized Friday for saying supporters of the Affordable Care Act are the “stupidest, dumbass” people he’s ever seen.
Speaking about the massive GOP tax overhaul at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, the Utah Republican took some time to blast the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“(We) finally did away with the individual mandate tax that was established under that wonderful bill called Obamacare,” Hatch said. “Now, if you didn’t catch on, I was being very sarcastic. That was the stupidest, dumbass bill that I’ve ever seen.”
“Some of you may have loved it. If you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met,” Hatch added. “There are a lot of them up there on Capitol Hill from time to time.”
Hatch called those remarks “poorly worded” in a statement on Friday.
“Yesterday, I made a poorly worded joke about Obamacare supporters – a joke that was not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side,” Hatch’s statement said. “Throughout my term of service, I have always recognized the importance of civility, particularly in engaging with those of different political perspectives. While I occasionally slip up, I believe that my legislative record reflects my commitment to bipartisanship and civility much more than my flippant, off-the-cuff remark.”
On Thursday, Hatch also described Obamacare as one of the most “regressive taxes” in the tax code, especially because lower-income families were “paying most of the freight.” He said it was one of the “great ironies” of Obamacare.
The new tax law, which eliminates the individual mandate, took a major step forward in the ongoing effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Hatch said.
“Orrin Hatch, I think, is frustrated. He’s usually a very polite man, you know, but I guess he sort of lost it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN’s “Wolf Blitzer” on Friday.
Schumer argued that “Obamacare is not perfect, but the overwhelming majority of Americans say don’t repeal it, make it better.”
Obamacare’s approval ratings are the highest they have been since 2010, according to the latest Health Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The poll released earlier on Thursday, found that 54% of Americans view Obamacare favorably, compared to 42% who have an unfavorable view. This is the highest level of favorability measured in more than 80 Kaiser Health Tracking Polls conducted since 2010.
The boost is driven by independents, with 55% saying they view Obamacare favorably compared to 40% who don’t. Most Democrats continue to view it favorably, while about the same share of Republicans have an unfavorable view.
Among those polled by Kaiser, the majority are unaware that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was repealed.
Hatch has been a key player in the health care debate, but he plans to leave Congress soon.
After he reveled in the spotlight as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee while shepherding the tax bill through the Senate in December, the Senate’s longest serving Republican announced that he won’t be seeking re-election.
This post has been updated to include comments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.