It's safe to say that Barack Obama's outside political team is taking a slightly less brusque approach to swaying members of Congress than are health care reform opponents, who appear given to shout downs and intimidation.
An email, which went out today, urges the President's supporters to call their representatives and urge them to support health care reform--and then to register that call with OFA. The explicit goal is to prove to members that there's more support out there for health care reform than rowdy town hall attendees would like you to think.
"The goal of these disruptions is for a few people to get a lot a media attention and hijack the entire public discourse," the letter reads.
If they succeed, all Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- will continue to struggle under the broken status quo.
It's up to us to show Congress that those loudly opposing reform are a tiny minority being stirred up by special interests, and that a huge majority strongly support enacting real health insurance reform in 2009.
You can read a sample letter below the fold. The new strategy is part of larger Democratic strategy to characterize the town hall protesters as part of a right wing fringe, supported by conservative interest groups. And demonstrating that public support for reform swamps the opposition is crucial to that strategy.
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Despite growing pressure from President Barack Obama that health care reform negotiations in the Senate FInance Committee bear fruit by September, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) isn't giving an inch--and he's using the angry town hall disruptions as cover.
Enzi--who has played a key role in weakening Democrats' health reform proposal, and whose support for the final product is far from guaranteed--said Democrats are in for "some nasty, nasty town meetings," implying that the public disruptions are a symptom of liberal over reach, not of conservative rabble rousing.
He will soon participate in a meeting with Obama and five other members of the Senate Finance Committee to discuss their progress writing health care reform legislation. Hard to imagine this message will go over well with the White House.
The treasurer of labor union AFL-CIO released a statement today claiming the town hall "mob rule" is bankrolled by lobbyists. "This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change," it says.
Read the full text below:
STATEMENT BY AFL-CIO SECRETARY TREASURER RICHARD TRUMKA
ON CORPORATE FUNDED 'MOB RULE' AT TOWN HALLS
August 6th, 2009
Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud -- as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town
halls held by members of Congress.
Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.
Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents -- not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction
We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these 'Brooks Brothers Riot' tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone - on all sides of the issue - deserves to be heard.
The Blue Dogs just can't get a break. In addition to facing rhetorical fire from the left -- that is, from liberals who think they're too conservative on health care -- they're now facing fire from the right, in a new wave of radio ads from the Republican National Committee.
The new radio ads are targeting the four Blue Dog Congressmen who helped advance the health care bill out of committee: Bart Gordon (TN), Zack Space (OH), Baron Hill (IN) and Mike Ross (AR).
"[Congressman NAME] could have stopped the expensive Obama-Pelosi health care plan dead in its tracks," the announcer says. "[Congressman NAME] held a vote that counted. But instead of using that vote to help taxpayers, [Congressman NAME] used it to help Obama and Pelosi."
The Mike Ross version is available here. The full script is available after the jump.
Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), the leader of the Blue Dogs, plus Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR), were confronted by angry folks at a town hall meeting in Little Rock. It's unclear whether this was any sort of organized effort, or whether it was a loose set of angry people who happened to all show up to the same meeting. The attendees' overall theme was that their way of life was being destroyed:
"At this point in my life, I have never seen my America turned into what it has turned into, and I want my America back," said one woman, on the verge of tears. "And I don't think the Representatives and Senators are gonna be able to do it. I'm scared!"
When Snyder said, "Mike and I do not support a single-payer system, we are not interested in a single-payer system," people began yelling back things like, "That's bull," and "That's what Obama wants." Ross put his head in his hands during the heckling.
During a Sunday event at a senior center in Madras, Oregon, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was confronted by the largest town hall crowd he's seen all year--approximately 200 people in a town of 6000.
Merkley has hosted over two dozen such events since February, and, according to his spokesman Marc Siegel, the tone of these events has become significantly more aggressive in the last few weeks, culminating in Sunday's raucous event.
The former mistress of John Edwards arrived at a federal courthouse in Raleigh, N.C., this morning, reports the Associated Press. Rielle Hunter is presumably testifying to a grand jury.
In video shown on CNN, Hunter had her daughter with her as she entered the courthouse.
Edwards has admitted a grand jury is investigating his use of campaign funds, but the U.S. Attorney's office in North Carolina won't confirm or deny an investigation. Edwards's political action committee paid Hunter's video production firm $100,000 in 2006, and another $14,086 in April 2007. Edwards said he ended the affair in 2006.
Here's another way for Republicans to handle the disruptions at Democratic town hall events: Joke about lynching.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) held a town hall of his own two days ago, and here's what he said:
"This particular meeting, in a way is a little bit unique," said Akin. "Different people from Washington, DC, have come back to their districts and have town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched."
The audience then broke out into laughter and applause.
"I would assume you're not approving lynchings, because we don't want to do that," Akin said, putting his hand to his neck in imitation of choking, which got audience laughing some more. "But the point is, people are really upset at some of this legislation, and with very good reason they were upset."
In a move that's unlikely to curry much favor with House progressives, the White House has reaffirmed its commitment to a long-standing deal it made with the pharmaceutical industry, that will require them to cover, through industry reforms, no more than $80 billion worth of what's expected to be the approximately $1 trillion cost of health care reform.
President Obama struck a deal with PhRMA early--a move that the administration says was crucial to build momentum within the health care industry for reform. But House health care leaders and progressives insisted that they were party to no deal, and included in their overhaul legislation provisions that would have put drug makers--a key industry stakeholder--on the hook for more than they agreed to.
The White House's insistence on maintaining this bargain means the House legislation will have to be changed before a floor vote, or during conference committee with the Senate, leading some to wonder why Obama--who's been notably averse to drawing lines in the sand over key progressive goals--is putting himself out there for the insurance company.
"It is a pivotal issue not just about health care," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told the New York Times. "Are industry groups going to be the ones at the table who get the first big piece of the pie and we just fight over the crust?"
Sotomayor Set To Be Confirmed Today
The Senate is expected to vote today to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation is essentially guaranteed, as no Democrats have come out against her, and eight Republicans are now set to vote in favor of the nomination as well.
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama will meet with members of the Senate Finance Committee at 11:30 a.m. ET. He will meet with Sec. of the Treasury Tim Geithner at 3:15 p.m. ET. He will meet at 4 p.m. ET with John Brennan, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. He will speak at a 6:40 p.m. ET fundraiser in Virginia for state Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor this year, and then speak at a 7:10 p.m. ET rally for Deeds.