Democratic Candidates Nationwide Look at Health Care
Democratic congressional candidates "promise carefully focused change" in the event that they take control of Congress after the midterm elections in November, the New York Times reports. The change in focus could include legislation that would allow the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications under the Medicare prescription benefit and would promote stem cell research, according to the candidates.
However, Republican candidates "warn ... that a Democratic takeover of Congress would mean wrenching ideological change: higher taxes; big new spending; maybe even impeachment," according to the Times.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that a Democratic Congress would promote "true openness in the debate," which might "make some of these issues too hot for the president and too hard for many Republicans to vote against."
Thomas Mann, a Brookings Institution scholar, said that Democratic candidates are "appropriately wary of both high expectations for what they can achieve, as well as the risk of some of their members running off in directions that would be harmful to their long-term interests in winning back the White House and holding the Democratic majority."
Stan Collender, a budget analyst, said that the next congressional sessions will result in an "utter stalemate" regardless of which party controls Congress because lawmakers cannot reach an agreement "on what to do or how to get it done" (Toner, New York Times, 10/8).
Democratic candidates in Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia "are testing different mixes of candidates, messages and outreach methods" in an effort to "break the GOP's lock on culturally conservative voters," the Washington Post reports. For example, Democratic candidates have focused on issues such as Medicare and Medicaid reform and expanded access to health insurance in culturally conservative areas.
Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said, "In conservative to moderate districts, swing voters first want to know where you are on their values. Once they get past that, they will listen to you on everything else" (Murray, Washington Post, 10/9).
In related news, the AFL-CIO has announced plans for a $40 million nationwide voter registration drive that will "focus on pocketbook issues like employment, health care and pensions" (Greenhouse, New York Times, 10/8).
- Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), New York Times: "Time is too short for a comprehensive agenda, so I suggest we concentrate on a single issue: health care," Bredesen writes in a letter to the editor of the Times. Democratic candidates should "hold out clear and believable hope to nearly 50 million uninsured Americans and many more insured but worried ones," Bredesen writes, adding, "Surely my party -- the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, of Social Security and Medicare -- still has in it the vigor to offer another plainspoken, big vision for America" (Bredesen, New York Times, 10/8).
- Gary Andres, Washington Times: A Dutko Worldwide poll of 800 registered voters conducted from Sept. 19 through Sept. 24 finds that 10% of voters believe that health care is "the single most important issue for Congress to address this year," Andres, vice chair of research and policy for Dutko, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. More voters said that Iraq (16%), terrorism (13%), immigration (12%) or the economy (11%) was the most important issue, according to Andres. "Democratic leaders spent more time talking about the economy, health care and the war in Iraq," as "Republicans in Washington, including President Bush, have discussed immigration and terrorism a great deal," Andres writes. He concludes, "Self-identified partisan voters closely reflect the views they hear from their leaders in Washington. And as long as political elites continue to 'prime these partisan pumps' -- as some social scientists call it -- deep divisions over the preferred congressional agenda will likely continue" (Andres, Washington Times, 10/9).