Both sides in the bitter healthcare debate say their truce over the controversial law is only temporary.
Republicans say they will soon renew their efforts to repeal the law, while supporters say their timeout from publicly arguing against repeal will run out as soon as the House brings its bill back to the floor.
“We are just taking some more time,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The repeal of healthcare is a top priority for the new majority in Congress.”
The short truce in the rhetorical war comes as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) fights for her life after being shot in the head during a community event. Republicans postponed a healthcare repeal vote in the wake of the tragedy that left six people dead.
Both sides say the vote on repealing the healthcare law is inevitable. And even the rhetorical truce seems unlikely to hold for long.
Liberals, for example, have expressed support for an editorial in The Huffington Post by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) calling on Republicans to change the name of the repeal effort, titled the “Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”
Pingree took issue with the word “killing” in the bill. While she said she was not suggesting it was connected to the Arizona shootings, she said the word was unnecessary. “I don’t think the word is in there by accident — my Republican friends know as well as anyone the power of words to send a message. But in this environment and at this moment in our nation’s history, it’s not the message we should be sending”
Liberals also have seized on the suspected shooter's rambling political views to criticize Republicans' heated rhetoric during the healthcare reform debate: Claims of “death panels” and a “government takeover of healthcare,” for example, have been identified as a "lie of the year" by PolitiFact.
Conservatives immediately shot back, with Bill Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard calling the particularly intense criticism of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) a “disgrace” akin to “McCarthyism”
“The attempt to exploit this tragedy,” Kristol said Monday on C-SPAN's “Washington Journal,” “is distasteful.”
Advocates have postponed dozens of events scheduled to criticize any repeal of healthcare.
“The events, the calls, the online mobilization — all of our organizing is postponed but certainly not canceled,” said Health Care for America Now Executive Director Ethan Rome. “What we do is related to the schedule of the Congress as well as our own sense of when it's appropriate to engage in activity.”
The group has temporarily halted about 55 events.
Likewise, Organizing for America, an outgrowth of President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, has put on hold 71 press conferences that were scheduled to take place this week outside of Republican lawmakers’ district offices. The political organization had planned to host phone banks and showcase local people who had benefited from the law since it was enacted in March.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce panel, canceled a news conference Monday morning to tout the law's benefits ahead of the repeal vote, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday. Waxman is among the liberal lawmakers who have touted the repeal debate as a chance for Democrats to build popular support for the law by showcasing its consumer protections.
“I think [the repeal debate] will be a great opportunity for us to make the case to people about how beneficial this law will be to everybody,” Waxman told The Hill last year.
Rome said reform advocates' preference would be for Republicans to accept that healthcare reform is now the law of the land. Barring that, though, reform advocates vow to press ahead with their aggressive defense of the law.
“What does it mean to have a healthcare repeal debate? There's no question that it gives supporters the opportunity to talk about the incredibly popular benefits and consumer protections that are in this law,” Rome told The Hill.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows Americans split on the issue: Twenty-six percent called for complete repeal, 25 percent wanted partial repeal, 21 percent said to leave the law as it is and 20 percent preferred that it be expanded.