Published March 27, 2010
With the yearlong health care reform fight in Congress ending this week with the passage of the Democrats' legislation, lawmakers face a new battlefront back home in their districts, where they now must justify their "yea" or "nay" vote to their constituents.
Democrats have argued there was a moral imperative to passing the law, to expand coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
But Republicans counter that the new law will kill jobs and lead to a government takeover of the health care system.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Democratic lawmakers to go on the offensive during the recess.
In a memo to lawmakers, Pelosi said they should "convey the immediate benefits of health reform to your constituents ... demonstrate the work of this Congress to create jobs and strengthen the economy ... (and) publicize the benefits of the $800 billion in tax cuts this Congress has enacted."
"Tell your constituents how all this was done in a fiscally responsible, open, and transparent way," she wrote.
But Republicans disagree.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Congress will have to fix the flaws and mistakes in the health care law in the coming weeks and months.
"It has now become evident to working Americans that the Democratic majority running Washington not only has no plan to help our economy create jobs, but is actually willing to sacrifice millions of them if that's the price to be paid for ensuring that the Left's vision of big-spending big government advances," he wrote in a memo.
"For the American people, the consequences of ObamaCare's enactment will be grave," he continued. "It means fewer jobs and higher taxes. It means fewer doctors and more IRS agents. It means higher health care premiums, and lower quality health care. It means fewer Medicare benefits for seniors, and massive deficits to fund new entitlements. It means taxpayer funding of abortion, and shattered trust between Americans and those entrusted to run their government."
Democrats dismiss that as misinformation that they will have to clear up during the recess.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., who received death threats over his support for health care overhaul, said he is ready to educate the masses on the law.
"This is an education process and it still will be," he told a crowd at a Hartford hospital on Friday. "This is a historic moment. Much has been accomplished. Much needs to be done."
Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., for his seat and voted for the health care overhaul, will be the first to hold a town hall event since Congress passed the legislation. It is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The White House is also in "campaign mode" over the measure. The president traveled to Iowa on Thursday to explain what he sees as benefits of the law to small business owners. He kept the pitch going in his weekly Internet address Saturday morning.
"Comprehensive health insurance reform... will begin to end the worst practices of the insurance industry, rein in our exploding deficits, and, over time, finally offer millions of families and small businesses quality, affordable care," he said.
Republicans are pointing to an entirely different set of numbers, including the 15 states who are suing the government to block implementation of the law and to businesses having to shell out millions more in health care costs.
In his Republican Internet address broadcast Saturday morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pointed out that John Deere says it will spend an extra $150 million this year while Caterpillar calculates that it will cost them $100 million.
"Most people aren't celebrating the fact that their insurance premiums will go up," McConnell said. "Seniors aren't popping champagne corks at more than a half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts. And, job creators, already struggling in a down economy, aren't doing any cartwheels over all the mandates and new taxes they'll have to shoulder as a result of this bill."
McConnell also used the new GOP mantra of "repeal and replace," the long-ball Republican strategy to repeal the law and replace it with a smaller and less costly plan.
First step, though, is turning all of what Congress passed into the law of the land. Obama signed the main health care bill this past week. He'll sign the final measure at a ceremony in Northern Virginia next Tuesday.
Fox News' Caroline Shively contributed to this report.