House Republican leaders recently subjected their Democratic colleagues to the 37th vote in two and a half years to repeal "Obamacare."
But heading into the week-long Memorial Day recess, Democratic leadership went on the offensive to prepare the rank and file to defend President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law back home.
The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee sent members back to their districts last week armed with "Affordable Care Act Toolkits," meticulously organized binders containing every piece of information lawmakers could possibly need to communicate the nuances of the law to their constituents.
"Reforming our health care system is an historic opportunity to make health care more affordable and bring the kind of change we were all elected to achieve for the American people," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and committee co-chairmen Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey wrote in a May 22 introductory letter accompanying each toolkit, one of which was obtained by CQ Roll Call.
"Nothing could be more important," the letter continues, "which is why we now want to educate our constituents about the new law, help to implement it, and strengthen the hands of those who have worked for this historic reform."
In other words, the toolkits — the culmination of months of collaboration and coordination — are meant to help get Democrats "on message" about the law that's consistently derided by the GOP as a government overreach that will kill jobs. It's certainly not the first time Democrats have tried to retool their sales job on the health care law, as polls consistently show Democrats have yet to win over the public. CNN released a new poll on Monday showing 54 percent opposing Obamacare.
Each binder includes a one page sheet headlined "The Narrative," which echoes many of the sentiments in the cover letter and provides lawmakers with a framework in which to discuss the health care law with constituents. There's a page of "Numbers to Know," a timeline of key dates for implementation of various provisions and an assortment of constituent handouts to distribute at events.
One section of the binder describes "Outreach Activities" that members are encouraged to facilitate, such as telephone town halls and roundtable discussions on various provisions of the health care law. Lawmakers are also advised to contact outside groups and nonprofits to identify senior citizens, young adults and women who can speak publicly about how they have benefited from the Affordable Care Act.
And then there's the exhaustive list of frequently asked questions and answers, which provides Democrats with their own set of talking points.
One question asks, Isn't it true that this expensive law is going to bankrupt the country and explode the deficit?"
"The opposite is true," is the provided answer.
Another question: "Won't employers refuse to hire that 50th employee because of the health care law's requirements for businesses with 50 or more employees?"
The answer: "There is no evidence that this will be the case."