Three ways Democrats are going back on the offense over health-care reform
In the past two days, there have been three stories suggesting ways Democrats might go back on the offensive in health-care reform.
The first was the McClatchy poll showing that the majority of voters want the bill left alone or expanded. That lends itself as much to a defensive strategy, in which Democrats fight repeal, as to an offensive strategy, where Democrats force Republicans to take difficult votes on the sort of populist, anti-insurer policies that were sacrificed to get Ben Nelson aboard the bill. Given that no legislation forcing insurers to spend 90 cents of every premium dollar on actual medical care is going to pass, you might see Democrats dare Republicans to vote against it -- and many other items like it.
Speaking of difficult votes, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has announced his intention to introduce six different bills repealing various consumer protections in the law. The package is called the Health Insurance Protects America -- Can't Repeal IT Act, which gets shortened to, yes, "HIPA-CRIT." Are Republicans really comfortable voting against the prohibition on discriminating against preexisting conditions, or the coverage for dependents up to age 26? As John Boehner has promised to allow open amendments in the House, and Democrats still control the Senate, you may see a lot of these targeted repeal bills emerging in the coming months, as Democrats realize that their Republican colleagues are split between a base that wants repeal no matter the cost and a public that doesn't.
That split is behind this survey from Public Policy Polling showing that Republican voters wants their congressmen to decline the health-care insurance they're offered as federal employees (Democrats, interestingly, disagree). This all started last week, when Rep. Andy Harris, an incoming Republican who supports health-care repeal, pronounced himself astonished that his federal benefits wouldn't kick in for a full month. Democrats quickly pounced on the gap between Harris's deep concern for his family's benefits and his disregard for the country's 50 million uninsured. Now it turns out that the GOP's voters agree with the Democrats on this one, and Republicans who ran as outsiders are going to find themselves in the unwelcome position of deciding whether to keep the mantle of the insurgent or seem like they're hypocritically accepting government benefits the moment they get to Washington.
None of these three are game-changers, of course. But Republicans are about to go from sniping on the sidelines while Democrats make the unpopular compromises necessary to get things done to getting sniped at from the sidelines while they make the unpopular compromises necessary to get things done -- or, given that the GOP doesn't control the presidency or the Senate, necessary to show they're base that they're trying. They're not going to enjoy it.
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