Senators Leave Town With White House Advice About Defending Health Proposals
Senators left Washington today, each side armed with health care talking points for the August recess. Democrats got some last minute tips from the White House.
Roll Call: "[Democratic] Senators are leery of what awaits them back home. But they are hoping that four weeks away from Capitol Hill will allow them to reframe the health care debate on human terms, injecting new life into their effort to enact a bill this fall ... Senate Republicans, however, contend that the public understands President Barack Obama's health care agenda just fine, and that that is precisely the problem facing Democrats this August ... Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) said the dissatisfaction with Democratic health care policy runs deep and is growing. "
"A very visible Obama promoting health care is also considered key element in Congressional Democrats' effort, as is Members successfully making a 'what's in it for me' sales pitch to their constituents" (Drucker, 8/7).
Politico reports: During an hour-long meeting on Thursday, Senior White House adviser David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina "told senators to focus on the insured and how they would benefit from 'consumer protections' in the overhaul, such as ending the practice of denying insurance based on preexisting conditions and ensuring the continuity of coverage between jobs." The aides also advised Senators to prepare more than usual for public meetings "by making sure their own supporters turn out." They showed "video clips of the confrontational town halls" as well TV ads. "'If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,' Messina said, according to an official who attended the meeting." Additionally, "Senators were urged to zero in on the insured, who need to be convinced that there is something in the bill for them. 'The next five weeks is about closing the sale with the insured population,' Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said" (Brown, 8/6).
The Associated Press: "These officials also told skittish senators that fresh polling suggests an emphasis on issues such as barring insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions is a political winner, able to increase support among independents, women, seniors and rural voters ... 'It's a challenge, no question about it, and you've got to get out there and make the case,' Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said afterward. 'This is not the time for the faint-hearted'" (Alonso-Zaldivar and Werner, 8/6).