Despite controlling the White House and the Senate, the avalanche of events and statements in defense of the health care law on Capitol Hill this week would make you think Democrats were actually nervous about losing the health care law.
The push to repeal the law has Democrats on the defensive — from a conveniently-timed White House report on the pre-existing medical conditions to a mock hearing on Capitol Hill — but it’s not for fear of the repeal bill. Instead, Democrats are using the Republican push for repeal as a chance to pitch the program to the American people. Again.
“It gives us an opportunity for those of us who believe the Affordable Care Act was long overdue,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “The debate in some ways in the House gives us a chance to do just that: Remind people what it is that’s at stake; why we cant go back to where we were.”
Sebelius’ agency released an analysis Tuesday showing that between 50 and 129 million non-elderly Americans would be at risk of losing their health insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions if the law is repealed.
Coinciding with the release of the HHS study, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, hosted a hearing with the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to showcase what would happen to some Americans if the health care law were repealed in full.
Off Capitol Hill, liberal activist groups like Organizing for America blasted letters to millions of members with warnings of how a successful repeal effort could effect them, and reiterated the selling points of the law.
From a public relations standpoint at least, the reaction to the repeal effort is sort of a “do-over” for Democrats. When Republicans took the House and bolstered their numbers in the Senate after the November 2010 elections, President Obama blamed negative responses from the public on poor communication, not policy.
“I think that, over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that, we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation,” Obama said on Nov. 7. “That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone.”
Two months after Obama’s interview, it is clear that the same sentiment continues to linger among Democrats.
“Apparently none of us did a good enough job [explaining the health care law],” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, on Tuesday. “Because public opinion is divided and they are unsure whether this legislation is going to be positive for them and their families. Obviously half are, and half are not sure. I think that when you say, ‘is this going to be a two year process?’ I think it will be.”
The House will take a final vote on the repeal law Tuesday, which is expected to pass but likely will not be taken up in the Senate.