Obama will hit the road to sell health care to public
President Obama is set to begin an immediate public-relations blitz aimed at turning around Americans' opinion of health-care overhaul, White House officials said Sunday.
WASHINGTON — President Obama is set to begin an immediate public-relations blitz aimed at turning around Americans' opinion of health-care overhaul, White House officials said Sunday.
Planning inside the West Wing for the post-vote period has proceeded quietly, even as the president and his allies on Capitol Hill have been fighting to line up support among lawmakers.
Now that the House has approved the Senate's health-care bill, the overhaul becomes law after it's signed by Obama.
The House also approved compromise legislation called a reconciliation bill that amends parts of the Senate measure that House Democrats don't like. The compromise package now goes back to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he had the "commitment of a significant majority" of Democrats to approve it.
On CNN, Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said he didn't think the Senate would pass the reconciliation bill that House lawmakers have written. If senators make changes to the reconciliation bill, it would have to go back to the House for passage. That could potentially complicate passage as House Democrats would have to muster support all over again to pass a bill altered by the Senate.
It's not going to be "a one-time deal," Hatch said.
California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein disagreed and said Senate debate will start Tuesday and continue for several days.
House Minority Leader John Boehner promised a Republican "effort to repeal the bill" on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Democratic leadership, said his party was prepared for challenges and any amendments Republicans might file. "I certainly think we're ready to tackle that if that's what they want to do," Durbin said on CBS. "We're ready to deal with honest amendments. There will come a time when the American people say enough, this is about politics."
Obama's top advisers believe that Republicans have boxed themselves into a corner with unanimous opposition to the legislation and talk of a repeal.
"We truly believe that Republicans have way overshot the runway in their criticism of it," one top White House official said.
Demands from conservatives and "tea party" activists that the GOP leadership seek a quick repeal are "not a political winner" for them, the official said. "You're basically running to reimpose (denying insurance because of) pre-existing conditions on children. It's children."
In the coming days, Obama plans to take several trips across the nation to counter what Democrats expect will be an onslaught of criticism and misinformation about the legislation.
Administration officials are also preparing talking points and fact sheets that lawmakers can take home with them on their Easter vacation, Obama advisers said. That immediate help — along with efforts by the Democratic National Committee, its Organizing for America project and outside groups that supported the health-care legislation — could be critical to Democrats' hope of retaining control of Congress in the November elections.
And it could not come soon enough for some nervous House members, many of whom have been disappointed by the weak support they have received from the administration and Democratic groups. One Democratic lawmaker said opponents of the legislation have run nearly $1 million worth of ads criticizing him, while supporters have spent just about a tenth of that.
A spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has led the effort against the bill, declined to comment on specific plans. But organizations supporting the legislation, with participants including AARP and labor unions, will run new commercials to thank lawmakers for their votes and to extol what they see as benefits.
When vulnerable Democrats who supported the legislation return to their home districts later this week, they will be met with billboards at airports and rallies.
To explain the bill, lawmakers have been given a district-by-district analysis filled with facts and tidbits.
Rep. John Boccieri, D-Ohio, for instance, drew praise from Obama in a weekend visit to the Capitol for supporting the bill "in as tough a district as there is." The analysis of his district, typically carried by Republicans, says the bill would give tax credits to up to 167,000 families; improve Medicare for 111,000 beneficiaries; extend coverage to 38,500 residents; guarantee 9,800 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage; allow 49,000 young adults to remain on their parents' plans; and so on.
White House officials say Obama will not make health-care overhaul a daily topic during the rest of the year, shifting quickly to financial overhaul and the economy. Hearings on revamping financial regulations will begin Monday morning.
But officials said there will be several key moments before November's elections when popular parts of the health-care legislation — such as the provision that prevents children from being denied coverage and changes to the "doughnut hole" for seniors — will take effect. Obama will build high-profile public events around those moments, they said.
The next chapter will also play out in the courts. Attorneys general in three states — Virginia, Florida and South Carolina — have indicated they will file legal challenges to the measure, on the grounds that it violates the Constitution by requiring individuals to purchase insurance.
Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli said the federal bill conflicts with a newly passed state law that says no Virginian may be compelled to buy insurance and that Congress does not have authority to impose the mandate under its powers to regulate interstate commerce, as Democrats contend.
Compiled from The Washington Post, Bloomberg News and The New York Times
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