Senate races

Tea Party groups put Dems under pressure to vote yes on repeal

Republican and Tea Party-affiliated groups are pressuring vulnerable Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) to support the GOP’s amendment to repeal the healthcare law. 

Democrats appear confident — privately, at least — that the party won’t see a single defection when the Senate votes Wednesday on repeal. 

{mosads}But activists are warning Democratic senators who are facing tough reelection campaigns in 2012 that they will pay a price at the ballot box for continuing to support the healthcare law.

The Tea Party group FreedomWorks is calling on activists to flood the office phones of Sens. Nelson, Tester, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to call on them to vote for the repeal amendment. 

{mosads}The Tea Party Express and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund have sent out similar appeals to supporters to pressure Senate Democrats ahead of the vote. 

“There are a number of Democrats up for reelection in 2012 who need to hear from the American people right now,” DeMint wrote in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday, singling out Ben Nelson, Tester, Webb, McCaskill and Manchin. “They may not want to listen, but it’s important that they know you will repeal them at the ballot box if they don’t help us repeal the bill.” 

Heritage Action for America, another conservative group that has been helping lead the repeal charge sent out an email appeal to its backers early Tuesday, urging them to pressure Senate Democrats to push for a full repeal vote. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to force a vote on repealing the law by offering it as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which has broad bipartisan support in the chamber. 

All 47 Republicans in the Senate are expected to vote for the repeal amendment when it comes to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the vote will take place between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.  

McConnell said the repeal vote would give Democrats a chance to reconsider their support for the controversial law. 

“For all those who supported the health law, it’s an opportunity to reevaluate your vote. To listen to your constituents who are desperately trying to get your attention. You can say, ‘Perhaps this was a mistake.  We can do this better.’ Or you can continue to dismiss the majority of the people in this country as not knowing what they’re talking about.”

Manchin, one of the Democrats who could have a hard road in 2012, already told The Hill on Tuesday that he will not vote to repeal the law despite his criticism of the mandate to buy insurance.   

“Sen. Manchin strongly believes that the healthcare law needs to be repaired,” communications director Emily Bittner said. “Sen. Manchin also believes that it doesn’t make common sense to throw out the good parts of this bill, so his priority is to make every effort to repair the bill before we start talking about repeal.”

While it appears unlikely that any of the vulnerable Democrats will break ranks on the vote, Republicans will still relish having a “no” vote on repeal to use against them in 2012. 

Both Nelson and Tester are guaranteed tough reelection races next year, and the healthcare law is already a leading line of attack against the Nebraska Democrat, who provided his party the 60th vote to get it through the Senate.

McCaskill is also preparing for a tough contest in Missouri, where the law is unpopular with voters. A ballot initiative exempting the state from the law’s mandate to purchase insurance passed with more than 70 percent support this past August.  

Senate Republicans would need at least 13 defections for repeal to pass the upper chamber, leading Reid to declare Tuesday that the repeal effort “isn’t going anywhere.”

Tags Bill Nelson Bob Casey Claire McCaskill Harry Reid Joe Manchin Jon Tester Mitch McConnell
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