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Democrats Offer New Argument on Health Care Act

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
"When I talk to people about getting rid of discrimination because of pre-existing conditions" and other benefits, "then it's overwhelming approval," House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said.

"We had the same fight or a bigger battle over Medicare. And now you find seniors saying, 'Don't mess with my Medicare.' I think this is comparable to that battle," Moore said. "I don't have any regrets."

On the one hand, the argument carries a powerful truth. Other entitlement programs such as Medicare are so popular that House Republicans, who have spent much of this Congress pushing for spending cuts, spent this week attacking Obama for cutting Medicare funding.

But on the other hand, arguing that repealing the law could hold political peril is a far cry from running on the law's popularity. "The party that told us you had to pass the bill to find out what's in it is now saying you'd have to repeal it to find out how popular it is," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Still, Democrats appear to be stepping up that defense of the law.

On the floor Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) gave a spirited defense of the overall law during debate on the legislation to repeal the IPAB.

"Two years ago, we passed a comprehensive health care reform package that is already lowering costs, expanding access and contributing to deficit reduction," Hoyer said, extolling the law's provision prohibiting denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare prescription drug benefit gap between out-of-pocket expenses and coverage and other popular measures.

"Despite all of these benefits, today Republicans will take yet another vote to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act. What they want to do is repeal the act," Hoyer said.

Other Democratic leaders throughout the week have been reading off the same playbook.

"The Republicans derisively call [it] 'Obamacare.' You know what? The president likes that because Obama does care about the people of this country," House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said.

House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) noted that many of the law's most significant benefits come online in 2014.

"In 2014, when it really comes into play, I think that's when people will recognize the value of this really hard-won victory," he said.

And with the presidential election in full swing, Democrats might see the president himself address the issue.

At a White House Christmas party in December, Rep. Carolyn Maloney asked Obama what he was proudest of.

"I didn't know what he was going to say," the New York Democrat recalled at a briefing Tuesday, mentioning as an example the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

It was passing the health care law, Obama told her.

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