Business group launching multimillion ad campaign pressuring swing votes on health bill

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a multimillion dollar ad campaign designed to pressure lawmakers on the fence over healthcare reform legislation to vote against it.

Bruce Josten, the executive vice president of governmental affairs for the Chamber, announced the campaign, which he said will cost between $4 and $10 million, in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

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The top lobbyist said that the ads will use excerpts from President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in which he talked about the need for job creation. The ad argues that healthcare legislation will stunt job growth and raise taxes.

Josten said that the ad will go on national cable television networks and then filter down to local stations in about 17 unspecified states that are home to House Democratic holdouts on healthcare reform.

"We agree that the House floor is where this is really going to take place. We are clearly focusing this specific activity at the House," he said on the call. "They are obviously being pushed and nudged from the other side."

The ad buy, which is backed by a coalition of different types of trade groups including health insurers, comes as the White House launched a public relations offensive this week to help urge lawmakers to vote for the bill and to convince the public of its value. 

President Barack Obama spoke at a rally in Pennsylvania Monday to tout the overhaul and the White House's website has published new content that argues the current bill will bring down premiums and expand healthcare coverage. 

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has said that he could whip up to 12 votes against the bill because he believes the president's fixes could allow federal subsidies to fund healthcare plans abortions.

Other Democrats have said they are either undecided or opposed to the bill because of its tax structure or cost.

But the business groups say that the bill will raise taxes and prevent employers from creating jobs. Jade West, a top official at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, said that employers have held off with new hires because of the uncertainty surrounding the healthcare bill.

Josten, whose organization has opposed the Democrats' reform package from the start, added that new taxes will fall to consumers, which would make it more difficult for employers to provide healthcare benefits.

Josten also took a jab at Obama for going after the health insurance industry for enacting steep premium hikes in several states, saying that their profit margins are lower than their opponents make them out to be.

"I think he's looking for a villain to vilify, and he picked that industry," he said. "He's chosen them for his own purposes. I'm not sure what he expects to accomplish out of that."