Out-of-beltway Republicans answer Obama's call

The Obama administration can add California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to his Republican chorus of health care supporters, the New York Times reports. "In lining up Republicans to support legislative action on health care this year, the White House is using a strategy similar to one it employed during debate over the economic stimulus plan earlier this year. Moving to bypass Republican opponents in Congress, the administration reached out to governors, many of whom stepped up in support" (Herszenhorn, 10/6).

The White House has also touted endorsements from the Bush-appointed Health Secretary Tommy Thompson and Medicare administrator Mark McClellan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, the Washington Post reports. "Most of the endorsements came at the prompting of the White House political team. Each friendly statement was then immediately circulated and promoted by White House aides in e-mails and telephone calls" (Shear and Connolly, 10/7).

The Los Angeles Times adds, "Neither Schwarzenegger's nor Bloomberg's general views on healthcare were a secret. But the timing of their latest statements served a potentially important political function for the White House: Expressions of support from prominent Republicans and independents offered cover to any wavering lawmakers worried about a backlash back home if they voted for the bill." The timing is critical because the Senate Finance Committee is preparing to vote this week (Nicholas, 10/7).

Aides to the current Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released through his office a statement rebutting the White House's effort to recruit Republican allies, the New York Times reports in a separate story. The statement highlighted less supportive comments from the same Republicans the White House has quoted. Schwarzenegger, for instance, said, "It Is Absolutely Unaffordable For States," according to the statement (Herszenhorn, 10/6).

The effort to secure endorsements comes alongside new polling results that suggest a thaw in opposition to reform, the Associated Press reports. Though the effort is still in "guarded condition," according to the latest AP-GfK poll, opposition to reform has "dropped dramatically in just a matter of weeks." The poll found 40 percent of respondents now support reform with the same number opposing it. For Democrats, that's a "sharp improvement from September, when 49 percent of Americans said they opposed the congressional proposals and just 34 percent supported them" (Alonso-Zaldivar and Tompson, 10/7).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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