Republicans Prepare Political Health Reform Attack On Defiant Obama
President Barack Obama told Republicans seeking a repeal of the health overhaul law to "go for it" Thursday as Republicans vowed to keep up their attacks through the November elections and beyond.
The Wall Street Journal reports that as Obama's "broader economic agenda ... is gaining legislative steam in Washington ... the people he says his policies are targeted to-the middle class-are the ones he appears to be losing." At a stop in Iowa City, Obama held a town hall meeting and talked with people about the health care overhaul. "'Yes, we need health-care reform, but why couldn't we have taken it step by step?' asked Kitty Rehberg, a 71-year-old farmer from nearby Rowley, who held a colonial-era American flag as she protested near Mr. Obama's speech. She said the president's policies would cost her 'a lot from my pocket book' to help people who 'just want freebies.' That was never the intention, White House economists say. Unlike the New Deal and the Great Society, Mr. Obama's policies are not about building a safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable, they say, but about fortifying the positions of those with jobs and income" (Weisman, 3/26).
Los Angeles Times: The president pushed the overhaul Thursday telling Americans that they "will quickly see that the new package of medical benefits they receive will not usher in 'Armageddon.'" Republicans are planning to "'run on a platform of repeal in November,' said Obama, appearing before 3,000 people at the University of Iowa fieldhouse. 'And my attitude is, go for it! If these congressmen in Washington want to come here in Iowa and tell small-business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits and essentially raise their taxes, be my guest.' The president was heckled at one point by a man in the crowd who said the bill should have gone further and included a 'public option' - a government-run program that would compete with private insurance plans. 'That's not in it,' Obama said. 'Why not?' came the reply. 'Because we couldn't get it through Congress, that's why,' Obama said, adding: 'There's no need to shout, young man'" (Nicholas, 3/25).
Roll Call reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., "unloaded on President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders on Thursday, charging that their partisan push to overhaul health care has poisoned the Senate and made it nearly impossible to achieve consensus on major issues going forward." Graham is working with Democrats on immigration reform, but said "the rancor left by the health care debate had killed immigration legislation this year, while signaling that the chances of clearing a climate bill were also tenuous. Graham took particular umbrage with claims by Senate Democrats and Obama that the $940 billion health care overhaul will reduce the federal deficit. Although the Congressional Budget Office projects $143 billion in deficit savings from the bill in the first decade, Graham said the CBO only delivered that score because Democrats did not include the 'doc fix' bill to prevent doctors who serve Medicare patients from receiving a scheduled pay cut" (Drucker, 3/25).
The Hill reports, however, that "even as some Republicans talk of using healthcare as a cudgel, others are questioning the hard-line opposition strategy that limited their input on the substance of healthcare reform and may deny them any chance of shaping financial regulatory reform later this year. For many, the health care fight may come to symbolize the tipping point. House passage of broad healthcare reform, which Obama signed on Tuesday, has raised doubts within Republican circles over whether the GOP leadership made a mistake by trying to kill the bill instead of shaping it more to their liking" (Bolton, 3/25).
In addition, Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said the calls for health reform repeal via lawsuits from Republicans are "ludicrous," reports the San Francisco Chronicle in its politics blog. "Kaine predicted that taxpayers will be angered by the costs of waging the legal challenges against President Barack Obama's health plan. 'Their money is being wasted,' he said. 'Americans are going to reward problem solvers and they'll punish the people who just throw rocks.' More than a dozen Republican attorneys general have filed suits contending that the new health insurance program is unconstitutional because it requires individuals to obtain insurance or pay a penalty" (Dunham, 3/25).
Bloomberg/BusinessWeek report: "The health-care legislation has sparked an intensified fundraising effort for House Democrats who backed the bill and Republicans aiming to unseat them" (Salant, 3/25).