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Health Care Takes Lead Role in GOP Strategy

Republican leaders return to Washington, D.C., this week hoping to capitalize on the negative public attitude toward the newly passed health care law, reprising the themes they used to attack the economic stimulus last year.

The strategy is part of a broader GOP economic message to characterize the Democratic agenda as a series of increases to the debt and expansions of government, GOP aides said.

Republicans spent the last year pointing to the nation’s high levels of unemployment as evidence that the $787 billion stimulus bill passed in February 2009 did nothing to reinvigorate the sluggish economy.

The stimulus bill, like the health care reform bill, received no House Republican votes.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said that while the stimulus bill was relatively popular when it passed in early 2009, the health care bill has not enjoyed broad-based support.

He predicted the public view toward the Democratic health care reforms would only worsen as the law began to be implemented.

Democrats are “hoping the American people — whose opposition to ObamaCare is still growing — will forget, but they won’t,” he said in an e-mail.

Steel said the popularity of the stimulus package dropped over time.

“When Washington Democrats passed the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ they promised it would keep unemployment below eight percent and create jobs ‘immediately,’” Steel said. “Today, unemployment is near ten percent, three million more Americans have lost their jobs, and more people believe Elvis is alive than believe the ‘stimulus’ created jobs.”

A senior Senate aide said the health care law was the largest example of a government takeover that has been adopted by the Obama administration but said it would not be the only issue used to illustrate the GOP message of “government gone wild.”

The health care law “will be one more element to the big-picture message,” the aide said.

“The stimulus is like health care in that it is another example of what [Americans] don’t like,” the aide said.

Over the two-week recess, House Republicans were advised by leaders to talk about their intention to repeal the newly passed law if they retake the House in November.

“When you get home ... remind your constituents that when it mattered most, you stood with them against a government takeover of health care,” House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) wrote in the district work period packet distributed to Members.

“This is not over,” he added.

In addition to encouraging Members to talk to their constituents and local media outlets during the recess, the House Republican Conference began sending a series of daily e-mails titled “ObamaCare Flatlines” to point out areas of the law that, they say, have already harmed the economy.

“ObamaCare Flatlines is just another way that we draw attention to the damaging effects of the president’s government takeover of health care,” Mary Vought, a spokeswoman for Pence, said in an e-mail. “The House Republican Conference will send out this product as long as we continue to find provisions in the law that harm Americans, so I imagine that will be for awhile.”

Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), said Republicans were simply looking to score cheap political points by spreading “misinformation” about the health care reform law.

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