Democrats, Republicans using health reform votes to plot November strategies

The Associated Press: Vulnerable Democrats around the country are "tiptoeing" during the recess as they prepare for midterm elections. "Tough votes for Obama's health care plan have further complicated the re-election prospects of dozens of already vulnerable freshman and second-term Democrats. There's even a chance the party could lose control of one or both houses in the midterm elections."

"Democrats and a few Republicans reported receiving threats to themselves and their families in the days after the vote. ... In districts and states where the overhaul was most controversial, town-hall meetings have been replaced with tightly controlled business roundtables and other gatherings with voters" (Wyatt, 4/8).

Los Angeles Times: The FBI arrested a San Francisco man Wednesday on "suspicion of making threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi" over her support for health reform. "According to federal authorities, [Gregory] Giusti allegedly made dozens of calls to Pelosi's homes in California and Washington, D.C., as well as her husband's business office. ... [warning] she should not support the healthcare overhaul bill that was recently signed into law if she wanted to see her home again" (4/8).

Meanwhile, The (Montgomery County, Pa.) Times Herald reports that Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., said he would have voted for health reform even if he hadn't changed party affiliation. 'My vote would have been the same,' he said. 'I've voted across party lines many times in my career'" (Phucas, 4/8).

The Hill: "The AARP, the Obama administration and lawmakers are trying to convince skeptical older voters of the benefits of healthcare legislation before they go to the polls in November. Their strategy involves selling seniors on the enhanced prescription drug and prevention benefits and easing their worries over the future of Medicare."

"A Gallup poll released two weeks ago found just 36 percent of people 65 or older thought the healthcare law is a 'good thing,' compared to 54 percent who said it is a 'bad thing.' Older voters tend to be a reliable presence at the polls, and Democrats are trying to stave off losses in both chambers of Congress" (Young, 4/8).

Reuters: Republicans, in the meantime, are hoping for large gains in 2010 and beyond, startegizing this weekend in New Orleans where as many as "3,000 party activists are to attend the four-day Southern Republican Leadership Conference, the most prominent gathering of Republicans outside of their presidential nominating conventions" (Holland, 4/8).

The Hill reports, in a second story, that "Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are facing a mini-rebellion against their message on healthcare reform. Every GOP lawmaker rejected the Democrats' bill last month, but the party is now split on whether to call for a full repeal of the new law. ... The repeal effort on Capitol Hill is led in part by conservative Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on the House side and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) ..." King has a different message than others in the GOP, who are calling for "repeal and replace," the Hill reports: "'Sell the repeal idea. We can debate the replace idea. That's what I would like to see our leadership do,' King said" (Hooper, 4/7).

Roll Call: "The Congressional Research Service confirmed in a memo Wednesday that rapists and sex offenders may get federally subsidized Viagra and other sexual performance enhancing drugs under the recently passed health care reform law — information that Republicans charge will haunt Democrats in upcoming elections. ... According to the CRS, under existing rules there are no prohibitions against providing erectile dysfunction drugs to rapists, pedophiles or other types of sex offenders." During the debate, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., "sought to add last-minute changes to the health care reconciliation bill that would prohibit sex offenders from receiving drugs such as Viagra." 

"Jim Manley, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), accused Coburn, who made the memo public, of a disingenuous political ploy. 'This is just another attempt at hype by Sen. Coburn as he goes about trying to make a mockery of the legislative process. If he has a problem, offer legislation and deal with the issue in a constructive fashion instead of issuing a press release'" (Stanton, 4/7).

Finally, Democrats are Rep. Bart Stupak to seek re-election after reports that he might retire, The Associated Press reports in a separate story. "Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer phoned Stupak recently and encouraged the Michigan Democrat to run for a 10th term, said two Democratic House leadership aides who spoke on condition of anonymity. ... A statement released by Stupak's office said he always consults with family and constituents before deciding whether to seek re-election."

"Stupak led a small group of House Democrats who withheld support for the health care overhaul until the last minute because of fears it would allow public money to be spent for abortions. ... Since then, Stupak has become a symbol for critics of the overhaul" (Flesher, 4/7).


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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