By Ian Swanson - 03/27/10 10:00 AM EDT
Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants House Democrats to go on offense during the critical two-week recess that begins this weekend.
Members returning to their districts should tout the new healthcare law’s benefits to their constituents, according to the “recess packet” issued by Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office this week and obtained by The Hill.
Members should “convey the immediate benefits of health reform to your constituents (such as better prescription drug benefits for seniors, tax credits for small businesses and prohibiting insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick),” the memo said.
Democrats are returning home for the recess covering the Easter and Passover holidays with the most political momentum they’ve had in the past year.
The House on Thursday sent a package of “fixes” to the healthcare bill that President Barack Obama will soon sign into law, culminating an emotional, yearlong debate that saw Obama and Democrats fall in the polls.
Pelosi’s advice to members illustrates that she and other Democratic leaders believe they can capitalize on healthcare to rally before the fall.
The message in the memo wasn’t limited to healthcare.
Lawmakers also should also “demonstrate the work of this Congress to create jobs and strengthen the economy,” and “publicize the benefits of the $800 billion in tax cuts this Congress has enacted” through last year’s $787 billion stimulus package, according to the memo.
They should also “tell their constituents how all this was done in a fiscally responsible, open and transparent way,” it states.
GOP has blasted Democrats for cutting backroom deals on healthcare to
ensure its passage. Some of those deals, such as the “Cornhusker
Kickback” obtained by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) that would have saved
Nebraskans Medicare costs, were stripped from the bill by the “fixes”
Republicans also argue the healthcare bill will end up costing more than its $940 billion cost at a time when the nation is running record deficits.
The aggressive posture from Democrats was also reflected in a release sent to the media Friday afternoon by Pelosi’s office touting bills approved by the 111th Congress.
The release led with a quote from Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who in March said this Congress was one of the most productive in history.
Democrats are bracing for significant losses in the House and Senate this fall, but believe they can at least mitigate expected mid-term losses by aggressively touting the healthcare bill and moving to other issues, such as financial regulatory reform, that they believe put Republicans on the defensive.
Obama kicked into campaign mode Thursday, saying he welcomed a fight with Republicans over healthcare. If the GOP wants to repeal the bill, it should “go for it,” the president said.
In a memo to his members, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday stressed that Republicans would work not only to repeal the healthcare law, but to “replace it with solutions that will protect jobs and lower Americans’ health costs.”
Boehner said his party would “repeal ObamaCare’s job-destroying tax hikes and mandates and replace them with common-sense, market-based solutions that cover Americans with existing conditions.”
The healthcare bill extends health insurance coverage to approximately 31 million uninsured people, some of whom would receive federal subsidies.
Some of the bill’s estimated $940 billion costs are covered by a tax on high-end insurance plans, which could increase their cost, as well as an increase in the Medicare payroll tax for wealthier taxpayers. That tax would also be extended to non-wage income, such as dividends and other investment earnings.
Boehner’s memo underlines that Republicans support some reforms included in the healthcare law, such as new rules that would prevent insurance companies from dropping people with pre-existing health conditions.
He wrote in the memo that Republicans had offered a better solution for healthcare reform than the one adopted by Democrats. The GOP solution would have provided coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowed parents to keep their children on health plans through age 25, Boehner wrote, without raising taxes or cutting Medicare.