Saturday, October 10, 2009

New D.N.C. Ad Touts Republican Support for Health Care Bills

health insurance

The Obama administration is trying to build a sense of momentum for a health-care overhaul by portraying such legislation as inevitable while portraying Republican opponents in Congress as isolated.

In a new commercial, the Democratic National Committee touts the recent endorsements of an overhaul from Republicans who are not in Congress, like former leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist, while contrasting them with Congressional Republicans who are “siding with the insurance companies and just saying “no” to health insurance reform.”

The 30-second spot is set to begin airing Monday on national and Washington, D.C., cable stations.

And in his weekly address today, President Obama drew attention to those same outside Republicans as he declared that the health-care debate was approaching its “final days.”

There is no definitive timetable for votes on an overhaul, but the road ahead contains many challenges in what has sometimes seemed a sluggish process. The Senate Finance Committee is set to vote on its bill next week, and that bill must be melded with a bill from the Senate health committee before the full Senate takes up the matter.

A similar process will take place on the House side. Then the two chambers have to agree on one proposal, while the administration tries to keep industries like the drug companies, hospitals and insurance companies on board. Few are expecting floor votes in the next month.

“The historic movement to bring real, meaningful health insurance reform to the American people gathered momentum this week as we approach the final days of this debate,” President Obama said in his address.

Casting an overhaul as all-but-inevitable, he took note of what he called a “spirited debate” over health care, but added that what was remarkable was “the unprecedented consensus that has come together behind it.”

The “consensus” includes Republicans like former Senators Dole and Frist, although they have not endorsed specific legislation. Still, Mr. Obama contrasted them with “some in Washington today who seem determined to play the same old partisan politics, working to score political points, even if it means burdening this country with an unsustainable status quo.”

The outside Republicans who have endorsed the effort are proving useful to the White House not because they are likely to persuade any specific votes in Congress but because they help in portraying Republicans in Congress as cranky and out of touch.

A spokesman for Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, pointed to comments made by Mr. Dole in an interview with Fox News on Friday, when the former Republican majority leader tried to play down a split with Republican lawmakers.

“Well, my message is not telling them what to do or how to vote or what bill to vote for,” Mr. Dole said in the interview. “I’m not forcing any of them. But I think we need to stay in the game. I mean, that’s not a criticism, that’s a reality, because I’ve been around long enough or was around long enough to know that these things are never over, and there will be opportunities for Republicans if they’re in the game. And they’re probably going to carry some amendments if they offer amendments to the Baucus bill.”

Mr. Dole also said he agreed with Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, on some provisions opposed by G.O.P. lawmakers, like excise taxes, for example, that Mr. Dole argued would drive private insurance companies out of business.

In a statement highlighting Mr. Dole’s remarks, Mr. McConnell said: “I’ve spoken about reform 44 times on the Senate floor on the need for health care reform. Yet some don’t seem to be listening. But higher premiums, higher taxes, and more government? That’s not reform. And this is precisely the problem Americans have identified with advocates of the administration’s health care plans. They aren’t listening to our common-sense proposals any more than they’re listening to the concerns of the Americans people.”