When a little-known GOP Congressman-elect who campaigned against the new health law demanded that the benefits of his new federal health plan start immediately, it was an irresistible opening for some.
“Call Congressman Harris and tell him to stop whining about HIS health care, and start fighting for ours,” intones an outraged-sounding woman in a new radio ad (see below) launched by the liberal group Americans United for Change.
The ad urges Andy Harris – to “Drop It or Stop It,” that is, drop his federally-funded health care plan or stop trying to repeal the new law. Harris is an anesthesiologist who was elected to represent the first district in Maryland.
Harris is among the GOPers taking over the House, half a dozen Senate seats, and some key state governorships. And for now, the momentum at least appears to be on their side. The official network exit poll says nearly half of all respondents, and 86 percent of GOP voters, say Congress should repeal the new health care law.
But Harris provided a new opportunity for supporters of the law to weigh in and attempt to turn public opinion – or at least expose what some might call a bit of hypocrisy.
Here’s how it happened: When Harris showed up at the Capitol for freshman orientation last Monday, he was a bit surprised to learn that his government-subsidized health insurance doesn’t start as soon as his Congressional term does. It actually takes effect Feb. 1. Here’s how Politico reported it:
“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,'” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange ’Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,’ added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’ request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.”
By Wednesday, four House Democrats – Joe Crowley of New York, Linda Sanchez of California, Donna Edwards of Maryland, and Tim Ryan of Ohio – were gathering signatures for a letter to GOP House and Senate leaders urging them to urge their rank and file members who support repealing the new law to decline federal health benefits.
On Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a petition to get the public into the fray. It urges House Republicans to “forgo their taxpayer-funded health care coverage before trying to repeal health insurance reform for hardworking Americans.”
And then Americans United for Change put out their radio ad.
Will any of it work to change the trend of public opinion? Probably not. But at least it’s changed the talking points for a while.
We haven’t been successful in tracking Harris down – his office isn’t set up yet, but we’ve emailed his campaign. We’ll post an update if he responds.
This is one of KHN’s “Short Takes” – brief items in the news. For the latest from KHN, check out our News section.