Vote Count: Obama’s Lobbying Convinces Some Holdouts To Back Overhaul, But Others Still ResistThe Washington Post: "President Obama claimed his first convert" Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, "on health-care reform Wednesday, as senior Democrats, labor unions and an array of interest groups intensified their efforts to sway wavering lawmakers before a climactic vote in the House this weekend" (Montgomery and Kane, 3/18).
The Wall Street Journal: Obama landed Kucinich's support after taking off with the liberal lawmaker on Air Force One. During the trip, Kucinich reported, the president demonstration that he "knew my position to a fine degree of definition." Other lawmakers share that view revealing Obama's lobbying strategy: "hard-core listening more than Lyndon Johnson-style arm-twisting" (Meckler, 3/18).
Politico: Another successful Obama tactic has included making "a more personal pitch." During a meeting with Congressional Hispanic Caucus members, one unidentified lawmaker said Obama secured his vote by "essentially [saying] that the fate of his presidency" was tied to the upcoming overhaul vote. One lobbyist explained, "The White House is raising the stakes so high, they are basically telling [House Democrats] that failure is not an option unless you want to sink the president" (Thrush, 3/18).
San Francisco Chronicle: Meanwhile, "Two other fence-sitters, Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and James Oberstar, D-Minn., indicated they could be moved. Oberstar, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, said he was leaning yes moments after he celebrated, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, passage of a transportation bill" (Lochhead, 3/18).
The Washington Post: Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., however, like some other Democrats, remains undecided on whether to support the health overhaul despite having "met with President Obama twice this month and received a phone call from Air Force One." Countervailing pressures include two "planes [that] circled his western Pennsylvania district, trailing banners urging him to vote against the health-care bill. And conservative 'tea party' activists confronted him at his office" (Somashekhar and Kane, 3/18).
The Seattle Times: Two other wavering members are Washington State Democrats, Reps. Brian Baird and Adam Smith. Baird voted against the bill in November, and is retiring, meaning he may not be susceptible to pressure from party leaders. Smith voted for the bill previously but is withholding his support until he sees the new amendments (Song, 3/17).
The Hill: "Democratic strategists are growing frustrated with some members from safe districts who are threatening to vote against the healthcare bill. 'Some of the 'no's are, frankly, kind of frustrating,' a senior Democratic strategist said." That means party leaders, who can afford to lose precisely 37 votes total, must struggle to get more vulnerable Democrats to support legislation (Miller, 3/18).
Time: And President Obama's top pollster, Joel Benenson, offers his take on the dynamics of the pending health reform effort. Democrats should look past numbers that show "widespread dismay at the health care debate and a nation deeply divided" over the health reform bill and believe themselves that health reform is a win for Democrats. "First of all, he says, the details of reform, as Democrats hope to frame it, are far more popular than the package as a whole. But perhaps most important of all, Benenson believes the current polls confuse a skepticism about health care reform with broad discontent over the political process in Washington. 'This is what people don't understand,' he says. 'People are frustrated that Congress doesn't seem able to work together to do the job that people think they sent them there to do.' A solution to this problem is action" (Scherer, 3/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.