Democrats may want to pivot from their bruising, yet ultimately victorious, health care debate to the economy and jobs, but they also are faced with the arduous task of making sure their constituents understand exactly what it is they already did.
I think its critical we do two things, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said last week. One is beginning the hard work of planning for successful implementation, but simultaneously talk how this is going to benefit millions of Americans, every American really. And that has to begin now and that has to be thorough, and the presidents already started it, so thats good.
Indeed, President Barack Obama has begun what White House officials have said is a barnstorming effort to sell the merits of the new law, but House and Senate Democrats will be making their own efforts to sell the health care overhaul to hometown crowds over the recess.
This recess is about bringing the message home, one Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
Congressional leaders have told Members to highlight provisions that take effect this year, such as tax credits for small businesses that offer health insurance, prohibitions on denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and the start of the effort to close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole, among other things.
Talking about provisions that dont kick in until 2014 does not help us in 2010, the leadership aide said. More controversial parts of the law, such as an individual mandate for insurance coverage and the creation of health insurance exchanges, do not take effect for several years.
Were advising them to lean into the vote, said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Public opinion is turning on the overall bill, and the immediate benefits have always been popular. Its important they identify those benefits to their constituents and put a human face on it.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is planning on holding a major event in Columbus on Thursday, his office said. Brown plans to invite his Ohio House colleagues who supported the bill to the rally-style event, as well as more than 140 constituents whose health care stories Brown shared on the Senate floor over the past year.
However, Democrats have already been warned by Capitol Police that they should be more vigilant over the recess given the threats of death and violence from conservative tea party protesters and their supporters.
So while Members will not necessarily be hiding out or avoiding all public events, many may try to keep a relatively low profile.
Things got a little ugly, and I think people are not looking to be so high profile that it makes someone whos not stable come out of the woodwork, another Senate Democratic aide said. And a senior House aide said Democrats in the lower chamber will be looking to engage people in more controlled environments like meeting with specific groups of health care providers or conducting tele-townhalls, which helped lawmakers impose some order back in August after the raucous sessions that opened the month.