Obama promises health care ‘milestones’; GOP vows ‘millstones’ instead

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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In an effort to overcome deep opposition to his health care law, President Obama is vowing to personally showcase a series of “milestone moments” with events like the televised question and answer session with seniors he did Tuesday.

But Republicans have a plan of their own.

“For every one of Obama’s ‘milestones,’ we’ll be highlighting ‘millstone moments.’ We’ll be reminding the American people why” they opposed the law, said John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Coburn and other Republicans in Congress are planning an aggressive response to the administration’s implementation of the law, hoping to drive home every painful change, misstep, and bump along the road. The message, a broad array of GOP sources say, will find resonance in a deeply disgruntled electorate.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration leaked the outlines of a well-funded message machine Democrats are building, including a new tax-exempt group headed by some the party’s the savviest strategists.

That group, the Health Information Network, hopes to use a $125 million budget to “educate” Americans on the benefits of the new law.

Republicans have their own infrastructure, even if, as they concede, it doesn’t match in scale and coordination the Democrats’ plan to leverage the federal government’s P.R. apparatus with an army of outside groups.

“I wish we had $125 million and anything like the organizational capability they have,” said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the conservative think tank the Galen Institute. Instead, GOP sources say their advantage is in the existing opposition to the law, noting that the Democrats’ robust response indicates the president’s allies are defensive and vulnerable.

The infrastructure does include a new “action tank” led by Douglas Holtz-Eakin and a new, more politicized offshoot of the Heritage Foundation called Heritage Action for America.

Republicans are also counting on the Republican National Committee’s “war room,” millions of dollars in campaign funds from a group led in part by Karl Rove, “intellectual ammunition” from a slew of think tanks and health care proposals to “replace” Obama’s health care law with from lawmakers.

Holtz-Eakin’s new group, a two-pronged organization called, alternatively, the American Action Network and American Action Forum, is also staffed by Robert Collins, former deputy chief of staff to House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA).

One top conservative describes its mission as “much more in your face” than traditional conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, which that have passed along “intellectual ammunition” to the GOP’s front lines for decades.

GOP aides say Heritage continues to play a critical part of the movement in that role.

Michael Franc, vice president of government relations for Heritage, said the organization is in its “analytical critique stage,” on the law, still busily researching its full breadth and implications.

Heritage’s new 501(c)(4), Heritage Action for America, will focus on grassroots policy campaigns across the country, Franc said.

Holtz-Eakin’s “action tank”  is also affiliated with 527 group American Crossroads, pegged as a kind of “shadow RNC” that vows to pump over $50 million to Republican candidates. The money could help the GOP, especially because the RNC itself is raising far fewer dollars in the wake of a scandal over its expenditure at a bondage-themed nightclub where topless women dancers imitate lesbian sex acts.

On Capitol Hill, Majority Leader John Boehner is leading a “solutions group” to craft the alternative health care law Republicans hope to “replace” Obama’s health care law with.

The issue is complicated because while the GOP conference is united in its opposition to Obama’s law, it fractures on what its proposal should be. Conservatives would like more radical changes than the “lowest common denominator” bill, as one aide puts it, Boehner’s group has rallied around.

A small but vocal minority of House Republicans are also calling for the party to simply demand repeal of the law, rather than replacing it.

On the Senate side, Coburn and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-NV) are working on a significant, intellectually “meaty” rebuttal to the health care law. The effort will buttress more day-to-day efforts.

While the GOP ‘s political machinery is impressive, numerous sources tell the Daily Caller that there is not a significant amount of cooperation between its parts.

Republicans, though, say they are at a significant advantage since large majorities already oppose Obamacare.

Democrats and their vast apparatus are “swimming upstream” given the electorate’s discontent and the large majorities that oppose the health care law, Franc said. “It’s a major problem for them.”