GOP Mounts Message Offensive to Defeat Health Care
Senate Republicans on Thursday began ramping up their message offensive against President Barack Obama’s final push to pass health care reform, taking to the floor and the airwaves to argue against the measure and warn Democrats that the issue would sink their re-election hopes.
A key element of the Senate GOP’s plan appears to be to try to scare House Democrats against voting for the health care plan, arguing that there’s no guarantee that the Senate approves a reconciliation package. Democrats are eyeing a strategy that involves having the House approve the Senate health care package that passed on Christmas Eve and then having both chambers approve a companion bill through reconciliation.
“What the president is doing is asking the House Democrats to hold hands, jump off a cliff and hope [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid catches them, and Harry Reid will have no incentive to,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) told reporters Thursday afternoon, during a joint news conference with Senate GOP Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D).
Thune said Senate Republicans would work hard to derail the reconciliation package, saying they are prepared to work through the upcoming spring recess to try to defeat the Democrats’ health care agenda. The GOP is prepared to raise budget points of order and numerous amendments to try and delay or kill a reconciliation bill.
Thune warned House Democrats that there is no guarantee that the reconciliation package they approve would survive a Senate floor fight.
“The Senate may not be in a position to retain a lot of the changes that are made,” Thune said. “We’re preparing for contingencies.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats rolled out an old video of Budget ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) explaining that reconciliation is merely a means to ensure an up-or-down vote on bill — the message that Obama and the majority are using to justify using the procedure to complete health care reform.
Gregg is the Republicans’ point man in devising a legislative strategy to defeat reconciliation and has called its use in this case an egregious overreach. But in a mocking press release, the Senate Majority Leader’s office referred to Gregg as its reconciliation spokesman.
“We are using the rules of the Senate here. It is totally inappropriate for a Senator to come to this floor and represent that [reconciliation] is some sort of unethical act,” Gregg said on March 16, 2005, during remarks on the Senate floor. “The point is, if you’ve got 51 votes for your position, you win.”