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Republicans Already Moving Past Health Repeal

Tom Williams/Roll Call
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House will begin work in the next few weeks on a series of small health care measures.

When asked Tuesday whether he was worried about mass defections during today's vote, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) answered, "No."

A senior Democratic leadership aide acknowledged that the repeal debate was much easier for the party than passage of the law itself. In addition to accusing Republicans of playing politics by holding the vote, Democrats have spent recent days trying to put a human face on the new law. Democrats have tried to show how the measure has benefited people.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on Tuesday didn't try to hide the strategy. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders held a hearing-style event Tuesday, which she said was an opportunity to "hear the voices of parents, children, students, seniors and small-business owners. We will see the real faces of reform in the one and only hearing where these Americans can share their concerns before the vote to repeal their rights."

Earlier in the day, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a conference call with reporters to highlight specific examples of individuals who had benefited from the new law; she was expected to hold a similar event today.

Meanwhile, White House officials were also holding briefings with media targeted at specific interest groups. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, for instance, briefed a small group of reporters Tuesday on the health care law's effects on the black community.

One Senate Democratic aide said Senate Democrats were also working closely with the White House to humanize the law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a recent HHS report showing nearly half the population under age 65 has a pre-existing condition.

"The health insurance reform we passed protects consumers, plain and simple. Repealing the entire law would put insurance companies back in charge of patient care, rather than the patients themselves," the Nevada Democrat said in a statement. "Because of this reform, soon insurance companies won't be able to deny access to affordable, life-saving care to any American with a preexisting condition, whether it's cancer or asthma."

The Senate Democratic aide said that over the next few days, Democrats will highlight the law's small-business tax cuts, free wellness visits for seniors provided under Medicare and several other programs.

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