KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Stupak To Retire, Republicans Continue To Hit Democrats On Health Care

CBS News reports that Rep. Bart Stupak, a lightning rod holdout on health care reform who eventually voted for the law, will retire this year. "Had Stupak sought re-election, he would have faced challengers from both the left and the right backed by interest groups angered by Stupak's health care vote"  (Condon, 4/9).

The Washington Post: "Sources familiar with Stupak's thinking describe him as burned out from the long fight over health care in which he emerged as the leading voice of pro-life Democrats wary about the possibility that the legislation would allow federal funds to be spent on abortions. … Stupak eventually voted for the final bill after Obama signed an executive order re-affirming that no funds from the legislation would go toward abortions. In the wake of that vote, he was treated as a hero within the Democratic caucus" (Cillizza, 4/9).

The Hill: "Stupak had drawn challengers in this cycle. ... Stupak's wife had reported receiving death threats in the wake of her husband's healthcare vote. Stupak's district includes much of northern Michigan, including the state's Upper Peninsula, a rural area that is seen as Republican-leaning" (O'Brien, 4/9).

Republicans are continuing efforts to turn the health vote to their advantage. The Wall Street Journal reports that Mitt Romney, a likely Republican candidate for president in 2012, "is raising money this year for congressional candidates who want to repeal President Barack Obama's sweeping health-care law. But as Mr. Romney tours to promote his new book, some people have been posing an uncomfortable question: If he opposes Mr. Obama's health-care policy, why did Mr. Romney shepherd a near-universal health-insurance system into law as governor of Massachusetts?" Romney asserts that the Massachusetts plan was a state-level solution and says that Obama's law is a "government takeover" of the system (Wallsten, 4/9).

Meanwhile, at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, "A group called 'Evangelicals for Mitt' has taken out an advertisement in the official SRLC program, urging attendees to vote for him in the straw poll (for president)," according to MSNBC (Murray, 4/8).

At the SRLC, in the meantime, Liz Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, called Obama's health care push "arrogant," The Associated Press reports. "Cheney accused Obama of peddling 'phony numbers' to get his health care bill passed by Congress" (Fournier, 4/8).

The health law repeal effort is splitting conservative and moderate Republicans, CBS News reports in a separate story. "Campaigning on the promise to repeal health care reform may be an easy way to rally conservative voters, but it would be practically infeasible to fully repeal the new laws, especially during the Obama administration. Mr. Obama has essentially dared Republicans to run on the promise of repealing the reforms, contending that voters will not want the benefits of the legislation - such as new consumer protections - rolled back. Republican leaders have acknowledged as much, instead calling for the repeal of certain aspects of the law with the promise to replace them with something better" (Condon, 4/8).

In the first of two reports, PBS Newshour examines how members of Congress are facing questions at home. "The old gold mining town of Rough and Ready lies in the heart of one of California's conservative districts. In these parts, health care is a hot topic." Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., faced questions this week from constituents as he traveled to Grange Hall in Rough and Ready. "At the town hall meeting, he attacked the new health care law for requiring people to have insurance and because he says insuring those without insurance will cost too much" (Michels, 4/8).

And in Wisconsin this week, the Superior (Wisc.) Telegram reports that "A trio of federal actions, all tied to jobs, were served up to local labor leaders by Congressman Dave Obey during a Wednesday meeting at the Old Town Restaurant in Superior. … Although a recent Wisconsin survey showing more than half of respondents are opposed to health care reform, the mood at Old Town Wednesday was supportive. … 'It would be tragic if it were repealed,' Obey said. 'We spent 70 years trying to get the United States to join the ranks of civilized countries who don't make people beg in order to get health care'" (Lockwood, 4/8).

President Obama and Democrats "face a bright political future," according to U.S. News & World Report. "Healthcare reform was his top domestic priority, and he spent a year fighting, cajoling, pressuring, prodding, and sweet-talking to push it across the goal line. When the bill finally won congressional approval, Obama and his team felt vindicated" (Walsh, 4/8). 

The Hill, in a separate story: "With healthcare reform passed and signed, the White House's top spokeswoman on the issue is leaving the administration. Linda Douglass, President Barack Obama's spokeswoman though the contentious healthcare debate and a former journalist, said Thursday that 'leaving this great team is bittersweet'" (Youngman, 4/8).

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