GOP seeks to regain August momentum

July and August were disasters for Democrats, but October has been much more productive as the Senate Finance Committee cleared its bill, with the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

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With floor votes looming, Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are criticizing what they call tax increases in the pending healthcare bills.

House Republicans, meanwhile, strongly criticized a “skewed” new Washington Post-ABC News poll on Wednesday that shows 57 percent of respondents supporting the creation of a public option. During a floor speech, Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said “the poll question was slanted and characterized a public option as a way to increase competition.”

He pointed out that a similar poll from June asked a follow-up question that the recent one did not. That poll asked whether respondents would still support a public option if it made private health insurers go out of business. Support for a public option dropped to 37 percent.

Republican Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.), who served as conference chairman in the 110th Congress, said Americans will become vocal as the floor debate nears.

“We don’t have the momentum that we had in August, but as the public senses that a vote is nearing, you’ll see the activity in the grassroots community ramping up,” said Putnam.

“The fundamentals are still on our side, which are: $800 billion in tax increases, $500 billion in Medicare cuts and a public option that Nancy Pelosi’s dead set on having,” he explained.

Sources close to Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, say they are growing more confident that the final House bill will attract the 218 votes needed for passage.

Opponents of abortion rights are strongly lobbying against House healthcare reform legislation, spearheading an effort that led to 150,000 signatures on a petition against public funding for abortion.

On Wednesday, conservative Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), a member of the Blue Dog Caucus, said that he would oppose his party’s final bill if it included provisions that allowed taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

“If funding for abortion is included in this legislation, I, along with many of my Democrats and Republicans, will not support the legislation,” he announced while surrounded by conservative Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), House GOP conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.).

Conservative Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) noted that the issue wasn’t about “about the legality or illegality of abortion — it is about keeping the government out of the business of promoting abortion as healthcare.”

Pitts and Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.) collected 181 signatures on a letter to Pelosi and Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) in late September requesting that they allow a vote on their amendment to ban federal taxpayer dollar-funded abortions.

Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats modified the abortion provisions in their healthcare reform bill, but the changes did not satisfy Stupak, who was one of five panel Democrats to reject the measure this summer.