GOP, Democrats Increasingly Use Health Reform Lessons To Shape Other PoliciesThe Associated Press: Politics within the Republican Party are having a profound affect on sweeping policy issues "such as immigration, health care and deficit spending." The reason behind this development is that many incumbent Republicans are moving to the right to protect themselves against primary election challenges. "On health care, the fiercely debated new law almost surely would have been different - and would have enjoyed broader support - if Republican Sen. Charles Grassley had not feared a serious challenge from staunch conservatives in the Iowa GOP primary. Grassley spent months in 2009 negotiating with Democrats on a bipartisan health bill, putting Obama's plans far behind schedule. In the end, Grassley denounced the Democratic-drafted legislation, helping fuel a long, bitterly divisive debate." Many Republicans in Iowa were calling for a primary challenge to Grassley if he cooperated with Democrats on health reform. "Grassley's office says the senator was concerned about policy, not politics, when he surprised colleagues by disagreeing with Democrats on even small issues. In the end, no one challenged Grassley for the nomination, and his re-election this fall appears likely" (Babington, 5/3).
The Associated Press, in a separate story: Liberals were not without their infighting on health reform as well, but those "who vowed to take revenge against conservative Democrats who opposed President Barack Obama's health care law have little to show for their anger six months before the midterm election." Most of the 34 lawmakers who opposed the legislation are facing "only token opposition - if any - from the left." But Sen. Blanche Lincoln is facing stiff opposition in her re-election bid in Arkansas. Three unions and MoveOn.org have together pledged nearly $5 million to unseat her after her "mixed" voting record on health reform (Evans, 5/2).
The Hill: The health reform debate is driving fundraising related to the issue of abortion. "Abortion had been a second- or third-tier issue in recent cycles, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, who directs the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA), an anti-abortion group that supports primarily female candidates. 'This time it's completely in the light of day. It is top of mind. It is a driving force.'" The group plans to spend $10 million this election cycle. "In California, the group is competing directly with EMILY's List, a group that backs pro-abortion-rights female Democrats. EMILY's List is vigorously supporting incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in what's expected to be a tough reelection fight." That group spent $43 million in 2008 on the elections (Miller, 5/3).
The Associated Press/ABC News: Lawmakers are also using the lessons they learned in health reform and applying them to other big-ticket legislative initiatives, such as financial reform. Democrats have learned from the plodding course the health effort took in committee to move more swiftly this time around. "Last year, ... health care negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee chewed through crucial months before [President Barack] Obama finally pulled the plug. Opponents of the legislation used the time to attack the president's plan, claiming falsely it would have led to death panels for the elderly, for example, and draining away public support. Democrats faced angry voters at dozens of town hall meetings over the summer. In the end, nearly 13 months after Obama brought Democrats and Republicans to the White House to start work together, the bill passed without a single GOP vote." They are hoping that other legislation won't share a similarly winding path (Werner, 5/1).
Roll Call: Medical interests - the drug industry, doctors, hospital and medical product makers - spent more than $876 million lobbying on health reform. "Within the health care industry, drug companies racked up the biggest lobbying tab, spending $253 million. They were followed by hospitals, which spent $108 million, and doctors and surgeons, who spent $59 million. Thomas Mann, a political scholar at the Brookings Institution, said one difference between this health care push and the last time the issue came up, during the Clinton administration, was that many in the health care industry supported the overhaul legislation. 'A good percentage of that lobbying budget was spent on behalf of reform,' Mann said" (Roth and Knott, 5/3). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.