WASHINGTON -- A playbook handed to House Republicans on their way home for the August recess contains instructions for an “Obamacare media tour.”
Find three businesses that cut jobs or limited growth because of the health care law and organize events with radio and TV outlets. “Make sure the participants will be 100% on message. Note: While they do not have to be Republicans, they need to be able to discuss the negative effects of Obamacare on their employees.”
But for every move the Republicans make — every town hall, job fair, community cookout, fundraiser and Obamacare bashing session — Democrats will be waiting.
“When Republicans get home, they should grab a glass of lemonade and buckle up,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, which is posting the August schedules of GOP lawmakers on a website and encouraging voters to show up and tell them to leave the health care law alone. “It’s going to be a rocky month if we have anything to say about it.”
Four years after contentious August town halls marked the opening salvos in the war over President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment and solidified the rise of the tea party, a new summer of discord has arrived.
By air, with dueling campaign-style TV ads. On the ground, with street-corner-to-town-hall fights over millions of Americans who are key to the most expansive health care reform in generations.
The targets are women, seniors, young people and millions of people without insurance, who could get insurance in new “exchanges” that are a centerpiece of the law. Enrollment begins Oct. 1, so both sides are marshalling forces to get out their messages.
If it sounds like a massive do-over, an attempt to re-litigate the legislation, it is. Republicans were unanimously against the bill from the start and want to turn reports of higher premiums and skittish employers into a public backlash that accomplishes what they have failed to do: Kill the law.
“No entitlement that has ever been implemented has ever been unwound,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, calling the recess a critical last stand. “It’s going to have to be a grassroots movement to succeed. No politician in Washington can win this fight.”
Congress’ final week before a month off got things rolling, with a group of Republican senators including Florida’s Marco Rubio threatening to shut down the government if the law is not stopped. On Friday, House Republicans held their 40th vote to repeal Obamacare.
The president headed to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to calm Democrats’ worries about the implementation and political consequences of the law.
“You’re on the right side of history,” he told them.
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010 and withstood a Supreme Court challenge in 2012. But even as parts have gone into effect — including popular provisions such as allowing people under 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance — it remains unpopular.
A June poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 35 percent American approval versus 43 percent disapproval, though a segment of the latter group thinks the law does not go far enough. Many Americans are unsure if the law is even in effect.
Democrats blame an onslaught of negative TV ads — $500 million, nearly 5-to-1 against health reform, since 2009 — that were often misleading or false. (See PolitiFact.com, Subject: health care.) But the Obama administration has been criticized for a poor sales job.