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Republicans Launch New Effort to Kill Health-Care Measures

At Children's National Medical Center in Washington, President Obama holds a discussion with health-care providers Yewande Johnson, Kathleen Quigley and Joseph Wright.
At Children's National Medical Center in Washington, President Obama holds a discussion with health-care providers Yewande Johnson, Kathleen Quigley and Joseph Wright. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)   |   Buy Photo

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By Perry Bacon Jr. and Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emboldened by divided Democrats and polls that show rising public anxiety about President Obama's handling of health care and the economy, Republicans on Monday launched an aggressive effort to link the two, comparing the health-care bills moving through Congress to what they labeled as a failed economic stimulus bill.

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And the news Monday that the Obama administration would delay release of a congressionally mandated report on the nation's economic conditions only stoked the rhetoric, spawning GOP speculation that the White House is trying to avoid bad news amid the health-care debate.

"The last time the president made grand promises and demanded passage of a bill before it could be reviewed, we ended up with the colossal stimulus failure and unemployment near 10 percent," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said. "Now the president wants Americans to trust him again, but he can't back up the utopian promises he's making.

"He insists his health-care plan won't add to our nation's deficit, despite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office saying exactly the opposite," DeMint added. "And today we learn that the president is refusing to release a critical report on the state of our economy, which contains facts essential to this debate. What is he hiding?"

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said in a speech Monday that Obama is "conducting a dangerous experiment with our health care." Steele added: "He's conducting a reckless experiment with our economy."

Obama responded by resuming his public campaign for health-care reform, stumping on the issue for the third time in four days. "The need for reform is urgent, and it is indisputable," he said at Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

But later in the day, Obama hinted for the first time that he would not let the August deadline become a deal-breaker.

"If somebody comes to me and says, 'It's basically done; it's going to spill over by a few days or a week' -- you know, that's different," he said Monday night on PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

Lacking unity on an alternative agenda to Obama's health-care plans, Republicans have instead focused on a strategy of rallying public opposition and wooing the conservative Democrats in Congress, whose votes will ultimately determine the fate of any health-care bill. That plan depends in large part on Congress going on break before it votes on a bill. On Monday, though, Republicans made clear that they see an opportunity to derail the legislation now.

The RNC started running ads blasting the Democratic proposals, and William Kristol, editor of the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard, implored Republicans to "go for the kill." "We have plenty of time to work next year on sensible and targeted health reform in a bipartisan way. But first we need to get rid of Obamacare. Now is the time to do so," Kristol wrote on his magazine's blog.

Several House Democrats in the conservative Blue Dog Coalition have already said they will not vote for the current House bill, citing the risk of raising taxes in this economic climate. The House bill would expand insurance to 97 percent of Americans but would add a surtax of 1 to 5.4 percent for families earning more than $350,000 a year. Democrats are considering raising the surtax so that it applies only to individuals making at least $500,000 and families making $1 million a year or more, aides to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday night.

The Office of Management and Budget's midyear report, measuring economic growth, job creation and budget deficits, was expected later this month, but administration officials said the report will be delayed by several weeks. The unemployment rate has increased to 9.5 percent over the past several months, although administration officials argue that it would have risen even higher without the $787 billon economic stimulus package, which they say will result in even more benefits as more of the money is spent in the next year.


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