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For many Americans it may be impossible to turn on the television in the coming days and not be bombarded with health care drama. And we are not talking about Greys Anatomy and House M.D.
A slew of interest groups lobbying on the health care overhaul is cranking up the volume of advertising spots and grass-roots organizing this week as Congressional leaders race to put the finishing touches on controversial legislation to remake the nations medical system.
As the little girl said in Poltergeist, Theyre baaack, said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advocacy advertising. Tracey said groups ran more than $200 million worth of health-care-related advocacy ads last year the largest advocacy ad campaign ever for one issue.
But there was a steep drop in these spots after the election of Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown in January, which deprived Democrats of a supermajority in the Senate and put health care reform on life support.
But now Congressional leaders are back on track with a plan to vote on a health care reform package that avoids the need for a Senate supermajority by using budget reconciliation procedures.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that she aims to see the House approve the health care package this week. The White House set Thursday as its latest deadline for passing the bill, although that has since slipped.
Advocacy groups and professional associations, many with conservative ties that oppose the legislation, have taken the mid-March deadline as a cue to ratchet up their activity.
Honk Against Reform
Conservative groups also are rallying their troops on the ground with events in Washington, D.C., and Congressional districts.
The tea party movement, which was partly responsible for the raucous protests at town hall meetings last August, is organizing an event at the Capitol on Tuesday, which will include a rally and feature speakers such as GOP firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.).
Amy Kremer, Tea Party Express spokeswoman, said the idea to stage the rally and subsequent lobbying of lawmakers was spur of the moment and prompted by Obamas mid-March deadline for passage.
Americans for Prosperity is also trying to exert pressure on lawmakers by urging their constituents to hold noisy demonstrations at noon Tuesday at their district offices. In what it is calling Honk Against the Health Care Takeover Rally, the advocacy group is asking opponents to drive to your nearest Congressional district office and drive around honking your horn.
Last week, the U.S Chamber of Commerce and other business groups announced that they would underwrite $4 million to $10 million in advertising opposing the Democratic health care plan. Americas Health Insurance Plans is also spearheading a $1 million ad campaign that criticizes the current health care bills for not doing enough to control costs.
Other lesser-known ideological groups are also running spots aimed at swaying moderate and conservative Democratic Senators and House Members.
One such conservative group, the League of American Voters, is running anti-health-care-overhaul ads in House districts, targeting vulnerable Democrats whom the organizations executive director, Bob Adams, described as persuadable one way or the other.