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Health-care fight centers on message

By Ben Pershing
In one corner, we have "government takeover" and "arcane parliamentary procedure." In the other corner, "skyrocketing insurance costs" and "simple up-or-down vote." With the substance of the health-care bill and the process for moving it largely determined, the battle over reform now turns largely on message.

The New York Times reports: "President Obama this week will begin a climactic push to rally restive Congressional Democrats to pass major health care legislation by hammering the argument that the costs of failure will be higher insurance premiums and lost coverage for individuals and businesses. While Mr. Obama prepared for a speech on Wednesday to outline 'the way forward' and to flesh out the substance of his proposed compromise based on the bills passed by the House and Senate, the two parties on Monday stepped up their battle to define the Democrats' legislative strategy." The Wall Street Journal writes: "The White House said Monday the leading tactic to win passage of the health-care bill was nothing extraordinary, rehearsing a key argument in the final public-relations battle over the bill. For their part, Republicans accuse the Democratic majority of trying to ram through legislation using a parliamentary trick that Republicans say was never designed for such a big bill. ... Mr. Obama and his aides have argued that Americans will warm to the health measure if they look at the substance of it, not the legislative sausage-making. And they say there is nothing unsavory about reconciliation, portraying it as enabling a simple "up or down vote" on the legislation."

The vote-counting focus this week is on the House. Politico looks at the math: "Pelosi passed the bill with just two votes to spare. If she took the same vote today, she'd have the bare minimum of votes she would need, after the death of Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, three House resignations and the defection of the only Republican to vote yes. Pelosi's job is holding the line -- or converting some earlier opponents from no to yes if she gets any defections. The good news for Pelosi is that there are at least a half-dozen 'no' votes that are open to voting yes, maybe more. But who? And what would it take to flip them?" The Associated Press gets more specific: "A small number of House Democrats who opposed health overhaul legislation on the first go-round may be President Barack Obama's most important constituency when he unveils a revised proposal on Wednesday. At least nine of the 39 Democrats who voted "nay" when the House passed sweeping overhaul legislation 220-215 in November are now undecided or withholding judgment until they see Obama's final product, according to an Associated Press survey." Tim Noah also breaks down the numbers and is pessimistic: "This is why I wrote the pope to request he give health care reform a papal dispensation. Without one, the bill will almost certainly fail."

Across the aisle, Roll Call writes: "Senate Republicans are preparing to wage a unified floor and message war to block this 51-vote strategy -- and lay the groundwork for what they hope will be big electoral gains in November. Senate Republicans have already set the messaging component in motion, saying reconciliation would subvert the will of the American people. Still under development is the legislative strategy, which Republicans hope will tie the majority party in knots and force vulnerable Democrats to take politically damaging votes -- if it doesn't derail reconciliation altogether." Orrin Hatch writes: "This use of reconciliation to jam through this legislation, against the will of the American people, would be unprecedented in scope. And the havoc wrought would threaten our system of checks and balances, corrode the legislative process, degrade our system of government and damage the prospects of bipartisanship." (Listen closely: That's the sound of Democrats all over town gathering Hatch's past comments -- and votes -- on reconciliation.) Thomas Sowell has a theory about Democrats' real intentions: "Politicians who want a government monopoly on health insurance can easily get it, just by making it impossible for private insurance companies to charge enough to cover the costs mandated by politicians. The 'public option' will then be the only option -- which is to say, we will no longer have any real option."

The Washington Times writes that "advocacy groups that oppose the health care overhaul bill are taking aim at House Democrats who support President Obama's signature policy item, pouring money into television ads attacking vulnerable lawmakers in conservative-leaning districts." Politico reports that Health Care for America Now this week "will issue a report that Kirsch said will refute the insurance industry's claim that its premium increases are a result of rising medical costs. The group will also begin radio, television, print and online ads promoting a rally to shut down the March 9 policy conference industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans is hosting." The Sacramento Bee explores the situation in the Golden State: "While intense scrutiny is being focused on Anthem Blue Cross for proposing rate hikes of up to 39 percent on hundreds of thousands of Californians who buy insurance on their own, other insurers are delivering some equally jolting rate increases."

Whose fault is it that Democrats are in this mess? The Washington Post examines a "contrarian narrative" emerging on Rahm Emanuel: "Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts. It is a view propounded by lawmakers and early supporters of President Obama who are frustrated because they think the administration has gone for the perfect at the expense of the plausible. ... When health-care reform became the administration's focus, Emanuel's public persona was that of a partisan field marshal. But before Obama and his advisers settled on a policy of expansive scope, Emanuel back in August suggested a smaller bill that would be easier to pass, according to another administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. When the larger measure stalled, Emanuel harangued Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and later argued to Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to strike the public option from the legislation to expedite passage, the source said. Reid insisted on putting it in."

Meanwhile, "the federal government Monday began to furlough workers, while hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans nationwide braced for an end of their unemployment checks and health insurance benefits -- the result of a one-man roadblock for a Senate spending bill," the Los Angeles Times reports. The man in the center of the drama is Jim Bunning, who is not necessarily enjoying all the media attention -- as evidenced by his unhappy reaction to questions from ABC News Monday. Dana Milbank suggests the Hall of Fame pitcher "is apparently down to only one pitch: the screwball. ... This left people puzzling over Bunning's motives. Was he taking revenge on his senior colleague from Kentucky, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who helped to push Bunning into retirement? Or was he just being, well, crazy? This second possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand." Roll Call says "Harry Reid and the White House may want to send a few dozen roses to [Bunning] for throwing them a lifeline last week. By blocking a short-term extension of unemployment and health insurance benefits, highway funding and Medicare payments to doctors, Bunning has unwittingly given Democrats measurable evidence that the much-maligned Republican filibuster is the real reason for Washington's gridlock."

Education -- a subject that has gotten little attention relative to health care and the economy -- was the topic of the day Monday, as Obama went to Savannah and "addressed the nation's school dropout epidemic, proposing $900 million to states and school districts that agree to drastically change or even shutter their worst performing schools," AP writes. The New York Times says Obama's "proposal, which was included in his 2011 budget request to Congress, is his latest criticism of America's failing public schools. In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Obama said federal aid would be available for the districts that are home to the 2,000 schools that produce more than half of the nation's dropouts." The Washington Post ledes with a different tidbit: "President Obama voiced support Monday for the mass firings of educators at a failing Rhode Island school, drawing an immediate rebuke from teachers union officials whose members have chafed at some of his education policies."

Deep in the heart of Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison appears likely to fall short Tuesday in her quest to oust Rick Perry from the governor's mansion. The Wall Street Journal writes: "After making steady gains in the polls in recent weeks, Gov. Rick Perry is the overwhelming favorite in the Republican gubernatorial primary over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison--but maybe not by enough to prevent an April runoff. ... But whether Mr. Perry can garner 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff may depend on some unpredictable voters: independents, including many who voted as Democrats in 2008. Based on early voting returns, analysts say, these hard-to-predict voters are likely to account for a big slice of the primary turnout." The Austin American-Statesman says "A Perry victory would demonstrate that Texas Republicans are far angrier at the federal government than their state government , and it could cause other members of Congress from around the country some hesitation before running for state offices." The Fix looks ahead to observe that "a Perry win would almost certainly ensure that Democrats target the state this fall. Former Houston mayor Bill White is a very likely winner today on the Democratic side and the Democratic Governors Association has already given him $500,000 -- a significant commitment in a state where the party has had almost no success in the past 15 years."

In New York, David Paterson's days as governor seem numbered. The New York Times' latest: "Gov. David A. Paterson personally directed two state employees to contact the woman who had accused his close aide of assaulting her, according to two people with direct knowledge of the governor's actions. ... These accounts provide the first evidence that Mr. Paterson helped direct an effort to influence the accuser." The New York Post cover calls it, "SMOKING GUN." In the wake of this story, Politico writes that "Paterson appears to have moved from worrying about his political future to facing the possibility of criminal charges. ... Depending on the details unearthed by investigators, the actions laid out in the story, several New York lawyers said, could run afoul of criminal prohibitions against witness tampering and obstruction of justice." Elizabeth Benjamin notes that the Times' revelation "comes just hours after Paterson proclaimed to a room full of business leaders and reporters that AG Andrew Cuomo's probe into the Johnson case 'is a separate issue that really involves the problems of someone that worked for us and not me.'" Also in the Empire State, Harold Ford explains why he's not running for Senate.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 2, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Health Care , The Rundown  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama to announce details of 'cash for caulkers' program during visit to Savannah
Next: Defiant Jim Bunning again waves off questions about blocking jobs bill (Video)


Every person who wishes to comment on health care reform should be required to disclose their source for their own medical insurance, and how it is paid for.

Posted by: mbuatti | March 3, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

The one issue in health care reform that matters:


No other issue resonates with that 20% of the electorate -- the swing voters -- that will decide the elections.

Obama cut through the fog well enough that Eric Cantor finally just asserted the cost issue:

"We just can't afford this."

But...that's were things get interesting:

Posted by: HalHorvath | March 3, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Wrong, rfj5106! You got it ALL wrong!

Nothing is destroying jobs and the economy more than the fear and uncertainty generated by Obama's Marxist scams, mainly Obamacare and cap an tax, and nothing would help job creation and the economy more than for Obama to be impeached and for the nightmarish danger of Obama's scams to end once and for all.

Obama and his comrades are planning to "create jobs" by further stealing from us to pay for their hordes of ACORN-type bureaucrats needed to run their scams, including the Obamacare scam. Those ACORN types would be deciding if we live or die and helping Obama enslave us.

That’s why Pelosi said Obamacare will be “creating” 400,000 jobs right away and millions later on. That’s even worse than the mythical jobs “created” by the stimulus bill in districts that don’t even exist!

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 3, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Note to Barry:

We understand that you are having a hard time getting your Obsessive/Compulsive/Disorder pet project thru Congress !!!

Here are 4 ideas on Healthcare from the majority of U.S. Taxpayers/Citizens/VOTERS........."STOP, CEASE, ALTO and NADA !!!"


END of discussions !!!

Next question.

Posted by: thgirbla | March 2, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

What I don't understand is why the connection between healthcare and jobs is not made. For the past decade we have seen continued outsourcing of jobs overseas. We have seen a steel industry bankrupted by health care costs and manufacturing facilities closing. This is because of healthcare costs. A newly formed company cannot afford healthcare costs for its employees. If we want jobs, we need socialized healthcare! Like every other major country in the world.

Posted by: rfj5106 | March 2, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Come on, the Einsteins in DC have got it all together. They understand EVERYTHING. Congress can design a Lunar Lander ... no problem. Barack can design cars ... emergency brake override switch or button anyone??

Any fool with his pants on the ground can figure out healthcare reform ... 2000+ pages of unread gobbledy-gook.

Geez, I'm always doing their jobs for them:

Posted by: raynetherwood | March 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The blame, dear Democrats ,is not , with the blue dogs. It belongs to President Obama .And I’m tired of people spreading the blame to everyone but him!

This man was elected with a huge majority. He carried the House and Senate and he blew it by trying to get the Republicans on board while they were on record as the party of NO! The hell with the country they said, ”Let’s scuttle Obama” and he let them do it.

Obama campained against Wall Street but he appointed Wall Streeters to his cabinet. The TARP loans were a good idea but Obama didn’t insist on some regulation to what they couldn’t do. Hence,our tax dollars went as millions of dollars in bonuses to the very people who got us into the mess in the first place.

I didn’t vote to expand the war in Afghanistan to protect a corrupt government. America has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Those billions of dollars could be going to help create jobs at home. I wanted him to lead in the fight for health care.not to stand aside and let congress screw it up.

I voted for a reformer .I got another cheap Chicago politician .

Ben Oliver
Asheville, NC
(828) 255-0619

Posted by: bgnyny | March 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm for health care reform, with out a public option they can shove it were the sun doesn't shine. I must be missing something, from what I understand the Democrats are the majority party ????

Posted by: shipfreakbo214 | March 2, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr President! We do not want Goverment Health Care. The goverment is a failure at all efforts to help the American people... There is no trust left.
We have a house of corruption and greed (Congress)A Far left secular progressive
President which stands to close to move this country to Socialism. A President that never fought in a war nor ever ran a business...and I should trust this goverment to my Health Care....Never!

Posted by: akeegan2 | March 2, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

The message from the people is loud and clear that they do NOT want this massive invasive expensive government take over of health care these deaf arrogant ignorant Democratic politicians just do not seem to get. They will get their clocks cleaned in elections and they probably still will not get it. But who is surprised?

Posted by: greatgran1 | March 2, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse


Trillions of dollars in deficit spending.

Trillions of dollars in unfunded Federal mandates for the states.

$100 trillion plus in unfunded Medicare liabilities, Social Security liabilities, National Debt and future debt from bills already enacted by Congress.

Fatal flaws beyond unfunded state mandates & deficit spending in the Medicare Reform Act (Senate or House Version):

Medicare access for ALL foreigners (40 + million) in the USA legal or illegal (defacto with no verification enforcement)without corresponding access for Americans abroad AND NO MEDICARE ACCESS FOR AMERICANS ABROAD LET ALONE THE DENIAL OF COVERAGE FOR AMERICANS PRESENTLY ENROLLED IN MEDICARE FOR VARIOUS TREATMENTS AND DRUGS NOT COVERED.

Political payoffs for unions built into the bill (SEI in particular).

No legal liabilities for any medical person or institution EXCEPT doctors for errors, omissions or incompetence. 20% lower reimbursement rates for doctors. A current growth rate in numbers of practicing doctors of 1% AND WE EXPECT THEM TO HANDLE AN INCREASE IN PATIENT LOAD OF 10-15%!

Couple all of the above with 20% unemployment and underemployment and the higher taxes represented by the above and you expect thwe voters to have amnesia when they cast their ballots.


Posted by: PRRWRITER | March 2, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

You are right, rteske! this is a "fight" between Obama and his comrades and "We the People."

The objective of the Obamacare scam is NOT to help "We the People," but to force socialism/Marxism on as, as expressed in Robert Creamer's 2007 book, “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win.”

A CONVICTED FELON and Obama’s ACORN associate, Robert Creamer contains the guidelines for the Obamacare SCAM.

As per Creamer’s book, the main objective of Obamacare is only to increase the power of "progressives" (Marxists) through the “democratization of wealth” (socialism/Marxim) as per the teachings of Saul Alinsky. Creamer wrote in his 2007 book:

* “We must create a national consensus that the health care system is in crisis.”
* “Our messaging program over the next two years should focus heavily on reducing the credibility of the health insurance industry....”
* “We need not agree in advance on the components of a plan, but we must foster a process that can ultimately yield consensus.”

As per those guidelines, Obama and his comrades planned to demonize the insurance industry and to agree to ANYTHING to get their scam approved. They don't care about the "components of the plan." All they want is CONTROL over our health care and our lives.

They want complete power as that of the Marxist thugs who are destroying Latin America. They plan to increase their power through the “democratization of wealth” (socialism/Marxism).

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 2, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

One of the main reasons for higher medical costs is that somebody else is paying those costs, whether an insurance company or the government.

What is the Orwellian answer from Obama and his comrades? To have more costs paid by insurance companies and the government! Aggravate the problem to "solve" the problem!

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 2, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm really surprised the the Democrats aren't making more hay out of bunning's intransigence. He is the epitome of Republican obstructionsim and refusal to govern. He's no longer even ostensibly accountable to his constituents so he's thumbing his nose at them. His contemp, and the contempt of his party, toward the common man, should be sung from the rooftops.

Posted by: wdague | March 2, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm really surprised the the Democrats aren't making more hay out of bunning's intransigence. He is the epitome of Republican obstructionsim and refusal to govern. He's no longer even ostensibly accountable to his constituents so he's thumbing his nose at them. His contemp, and the contempt of his party, toward the common man, should be sung from the rooftops.

Posted by: wdague | March 2, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse


Nothing President Obama or Congress does or says can make a real difference in the lives of Americans until civil and human rights are restored in America.




• Why so many cell towers saturate the American landscape -- urban and rural.

• Weapon system patents reveal silent, powerful attack system in YOUR backyard.

• American human rights atrocities under the cover of national security.

OR: (see articles list)


• Reporter exposing gov't cell tower microwave torture held hostage to community stalking, police-protected, GPS-equipped vigilante squads that burglarize, vandalize and terrorize -- officially-enabled lawlessness that afflicts many thousands of other unconstitutionally targeted and persecuted Americans.



OR (see "stories" list)

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 2, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Characterizing Health Care legislation as a "fight" is correct.
A fight between radical liberal elites in the Obama administration and the Congress against the US citizens.
Historically since the inception of the United States, "We the People" have won each and every fight against forces greater then our elected officials and this outcome will be no different.
Maybe, just maybe if President Obama and the Congress lose, they will finally learn something!

Posted by: rteske | March 2, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

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