Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander said Republicans are "quietly" planning some 50 in-person and telephone town hall gatherings over the next three weeks to drum up opposition to Democratic health care bills. Republicans believe this effort will pick up new urgency once Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) releases his long-awaited bill -- possibly next week.
The reform debate in the House was cut off by Congress' August recess, which saw members go back to their districts to face hundreds of angry constituents scared by what they had heard about Democratic reform proposals from the right-wing media and GOP leaders like Sarah Palin. The Senate debate, set to begin next week, will also be cut off by a fixed break in the Congressional schedule, giving the GOP confidence they can repeat the August town halls and perhaps scare some of the moderate Democratic fence-sitters into shutting down the bill in the Senate.
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Asked if it created a political liability to introduce the bill before Thanksgiving, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, you're "damned if you do, damned if you don't."