The Times West Virginian

Headline News

November 17, 2013

GOP sees health care law as big opportunity

Ads attacking Rahall have begun

WASHINGTON — In his West Virginia district, the TV ads attacking Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall over the calamitous startup of President Barack Obama’s health care law have already begun.

The 19-term veteran, a perennial target in a GOP-shifting state, is among many in the president’s party who have recited to constituents Obama’s assurance that they could keep insurance coverage they liked under the 2010 overhaul.

That has proved untrue for several million Americans, igniting a public uproar that has forced Obama to reverse himself on part of the law and sent many Democrats scrambling into political self-preservation mode ahead of next year’s congressional elections.

Rahall was among 39 Democrats who, despite an Obama veto threat, voted Friday for a GOP measure that would let insurers continue selling policies to individuals that fall short of the health care law’s requirements. It was approved 261-157.

“I’m concerned about my integrity with voters who have returned me here 38 years. They know me enough to know I wouldn’t purposely mislead them,” Rahall said this past week. “They have that confidence in me, and I want them to continue to have that confidence in me.”

Republicans are emboldened by Obama’s reversal and the Democrats’ scramble for cover. They are already compiling lists of dozens of Senate and House Democrats such as Rahall who, in video clips and written statements, have parroted Obama’s pledge that voters’ existing coverage would not be annulled.

“There’s nothing more damaging than when your word is devalued and people think they were misled,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm. “And especially damaging is when it actually affects you and your family. So in terms of degree of impact, this is off the Richter scale.”

Top Democrats, who need to gain 17 seats to retake the House majority, scoff that next November’s elections are far off. They say by then, the health care law will be to their advantage because it will be working well.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said his party will focus the campaign on the economy, Democratic efforts to fix it and the GOP’s preference for cutting Medicare and granting tax breaks to the wealthy.

The Republican emphasis on the health care law’s problems “from a partisan perspective gins up the Republican base. But it alienates independent and moderate voters,” said Israel, who said those voters “are more interested in solutions.”

Other Democrats agree that plenty can change in a year but concede that the issue poses problems.

Martin Frost, a former Texas Democratic congressman who headed the House Democratic campaign committee, said many people still may lose their coverage because state officials have ample power over insurers. And he said the Obama administration cannot allow additional foul-ups.

“If I were still in Congress, I’d be concerned,” Frost said.

Sensing an edge, the GOP plans to cut commercials featuring Democrats’ promises that people could keep their health insurance. They are already emailing press releases to reporters attacking Democrats on the issue.

“With Obamacare proving to be a total disaster — from the botched website to the broken promises — it’s no surprise that Barber is now desperate to hide his support,” said one GOP release distributed in the district of freshman Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz.

Republicans are aiming similar attacks against Democrats challenging GOP incumbents, urging reporters to ask them their views on the health care law.

America Rising, a GOP political action committee that compiles research on opposition candidates, is collecting video of Democrats’ comments on the law. Some conservative groups are already running television spots, with Americans for Prosperity airing ads attacking Rahall and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., while defending Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., for opposing the law.

“It forces thousands to lose the plans they love and the doctors they know,” says the 30-second spot running on television and radio in Rahall’s West Virginia district.

Barber also voted for the Republican bill. He said he believes that eventually, people will be able to keep the plans they want and the government’s troubled health care website will be fixed.

“If that gets resolved satisfactorily, I think it will be less of an issue than it is today. That’s why you have to take the long view,” said Barber.

Though Democrats opposed the House GOP bill 153-39, the vote was evidence of the pressure they feel over canceled policies.

The health care law let insurers cancel some existing coverage that lacked the improved features now required. More than 4 million policyholders have received termination letters from their carriers, according to an Associated Press tally.

Feeling public heat, Obama on Thursday took administrative action to let insurers continue current plans for a year. He took the blame for the confusion, saying, “That’s on me,” not congressional Democrats. House Democratic leaders told reporters later that day that they had nothing to apologize for.

Even so, most House Democrats felt Obama’s action was not enough and demanded a vote on a Democratic proposal.

“They want to be on record,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. “Members are not judged by administrative fixes. Members are judged by their voting records.”

Top Democrats finally proposed their own plan. But that was not until rank-and-file lawmakers threatened to back the GOP bill, which Democrats said would weaken the law because it would let insurers issue new substandard policies, not just renew old ones.

A similar dynamic is in play in the Senate.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., backed by colleagues who like her face competitive re-elections next year, has proposed legislation requiring insurers to renew policies canceled because of the law.

Not eager to breathe life into a challenge to the health care overhaul, leaders have not decided whether they will allow a vote on Landrieu’s bill.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Labor Department cuts levels of allowable coal dust

    The Obama administration said Wednesday it is cutting the amount of coal dust allowed in coal mines in an effort to help reduce black lung disease.
    “Today we advance a very basic principle: you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life for your livelihood,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said.

    April 24, 2014

  • Obama offers Japan security, economic assurances

    Facing fresh questions about his commitment to Asia, President Barack Obama will seek to convince Japan’s leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges, even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere.

    April 24, 2014

  • Supreme Court: Michigan affirmative action ban OK

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • Court critical of law punishing campaign lies

    The Supreme Court appears to be highly skeptical of laws that try to police false statements during political campaigns, raising doubts about the viability of such laws in more than 15 states.

    April 23, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has ‘days, not weeks’ to follow by an international accord for Ukraine

    Russia has “days, not weeks” to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • U.S. weighing military exercises

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia’s buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    April 21, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • Governor: Closing Boston amid bomber hunt ‘tough’

    Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

    April 20, 2014

  • Everest avalanche reminder of risks Sherpas face

    The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.
    But they couldn’t get there quickly enough.

    April 20, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads