With Congress On Recess, Health Reform Politics Emerge On Homefront

The Associated Press: While Americans remain divided over the new health reform law, "they aren't clamoring for its repeal. … Instead, the public seems willing to listen to candidates who would give the overhaul a chance and fix or improve it as needed. That's the signal from some surveys and a congressional race in a bellwether Pennsylvania district."

Such surveys and races could spell a break for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections as some Republicans continue to appeal for votes by calling for a repeal. "Americans' nuanced outlook is reflected in some recent polls. For example, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found the public tilting against the law 44-38, with 36 percent saying the quality of their health care would get worse, and only 17 percent believing it would improve. Not exactly a vote of confidence. But when asked if they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate willing to give the law a chance to work and make changes as needed, or one who would repeal it entirely and start over, respondents picked the one who would give it a chance by 55-42. Political independents favored giving the law a chance 57-40 in the poll, taken in early May" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/1).

Politico: Meanwhile, "Senate Republicans are vowing to press their case against Obama's sweeping new health care law by challenging (Dr. Donald) Berwick's nomination (to run Medicare and Medicaid) — just in time to resurrect the brutal yearlong health reform battle ahead of the midterm elections. … The Republican campaign has grown so alarming to Democratic senators and health care activists that the White House is facing fresh demands to launch a more vigorous defense of Berwick, who is considered an American pioneer in helping doctors and hospitals provide improved care at a lower cost." The GOP is objecting to Berwick's "self-professed 'love' of the British system," according to Politico  (Budoff Brown, 6/1).

The Hill: "Senate Democrats, wary of losing an important constituency, are using their week-long Memorial Day recess to reach out to senior citizens," especially on issues related to scheduled Medicare cuts and elements of health reform's implementation. "Senate Democratic leaders want members to hold town hall forums at senior centers …"

"'Health insurance reform, particularly as it relates to seniors, is one of the most important things for senators to discuss when they are home for recess,' reads a packet distributed to Democratic members. 'In order to get the message out ahead of talk of health reform repeal, senators should talk with seniors about the benefits they are going to see immediately and those they will be seeing over the coming months and years.'" A similar Republican packet also "zeroes in on health care, calling it 'Exhibit A' of a 'Runaway Washington Government'" (Rushing, 5/30).

CQ Politics: "Democrats will also continue their efforts to turn public perception of their health care reform legislation. For instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent his Members home with recess materials stressing immediate effects of the law – such as expanding coverage of adult children" (Kucinich and Stanton, 5/30).

The Washington Post: In North Carolina, "[a] defiant move by one of the nation's most powerful unions to help oust Democrats who voted against the health care bill by establishing a third political party in North Carolina has failed because organizers did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the November midterm elections." 

The Service Employees International Union there failed to gather 85,000 signatures to get a third-party candidate on the general election ballot to challenge Rep. Larry Kissell, a first-term Democrats who voted no on health care. "But organizers said they are drafting an independent candidate to challenge [Kissell] ... Frustrated that Democratic lawmakers they deem too centrist are not pursuing a more liberal agenda, the SEIU and other labor unions and progressive advocacy groups have been taking on Democratic incumbents across the country, including in Arkansas. But while most of these family feuds have been confined to Democratic primaries, the North Carolina effort will play out in the general election" (Rucker, 5/31).

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