GOP Brings Back Health Care Town Halls

For Republicans battling Democratic-led health care reform, there’s August — and then there’s everything after. Starting in a couple of weeks, the GOP hopes to take the country back to the heady days of the health care town halls.

The late summer was the high-water mark for the GOP on health care, when poll support for Democratic reform lagged after an August full of raucous town hall meetings with members of Congress across the country. The town halls caused the reform debate to shift from “public options” and “mandates” to “death panels” and “socialized medicine.” President Obama gave a primetime address before a joint session of Congress to address the fears raised by the town halls, and polls began to shift back toward support for Democratic reforms.

Now, the GOP wants to capture some of that August magic again as the Senate takes up a reform bill.From Politico:

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.

More from Politico:

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.”