KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Protesters Continue Levying Recess Wrath On Lawmakers

Protesters again warned lawmakers Thursday that their outrage is from the grassroots level, not manufactured, as they packed halls and offices around America, Roll Call reports.

For another day, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen "Specter entered the room to a rowdy chorus of cheers and jeers, and he attempted to answer a wide range of questions on health care, from pre-existing conditions to a proposed advisory board and the public insurance option. One middle-aged woman was on the verge of tears when she described to Specter how she believed her grandchildren would be forced to pay off the national debt" (Toeplitz, 8/13).

After the meeting, Specter expressed surprise at the anger from the crowd, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. "After the meeting concluded, Specter told about two dozen reporters that he has been surprised at the rising anger and the number of people attending the meetings. As Democrats on break hold similar town hall meetings across the nation, the angry crowds have garnered headlines and some live TV coverage" (Fabregas, 8/14).

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also faced crowds, though they were far friendlier to him than to Democratic counterparts, Roll Call reports: "When Grassley said he was opposed to a public insurance option; when he vowed to vote against a health care bill cleared by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on a party-line vote; when he promised to oppose legislation supported by House Democratic leaders; when he said he won't support any Senate Finance Committee compromise that expands Washington's reach; and when he pushed for tort reform, the cheers were almost deafening" (Drucker, 8/13).

The Wall Street Journal on Indiana as a battleground in the fight: "Indiana represents a battleground state in the debate. It has two U.S. senators -- neither of whom has held a town-hall meeting on health care -- from each party. Of the state's nine House members, four are Republicans and five are Democrats. Among the Democrats, three, including Mr. Donnelly, are members of the fiscally conservative 'Blue Dog' coalition that helped force lawmakers to slow debate and return home before voting" (Belkin, 8/14).

In Florida, a rally to support a public plan "outside Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson's office in Coral Gables quickly turned into a cross-street chanting and shouting match Thursday afternoon between about 250 backers and opponents, McClatchy Newspapers/The Miami Herald reports. "The rally, organized by the liberal, generated the latest in a string of heated and emotional public exchanges about health-care reform, after opponents of the measures working their way through Congress also showed up" (Olorunnipa, 8/14).

In the meantime, the protests have caused investigations into some people who threaten harm, like in Maryland where the Secret Service arrested and is investigating a man who had a "Death to Obama" sign, The Associated Press reports. "(D)eputies detained the unidentified, 51-year-old man near the entrance to Hagerstown Community College about 1 p.m. Wednesday after getting calls from a number of people attending the meeting held by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. Obama was not at the meeting" (Dishneau, 8/13).

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