By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and ROBERT PEAR
Published: March 19, 2012
WASHINGTON — Republicans on Capitol Hill have put together a highly coordinated two-week renewed assault on the health care law, seizing on the legislation's second anniversary and the next week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court concerning its constitutionality.
On Monday, Congressional Republicans took to the floor of both chambers to denounce the law, presaging a vote in the House this week to dismantle the law's payment advisory board, the 26th legislative attack on the law in the Republican-controlled House in the 112th Congress.
Daily news conferences are planned on the Hill next week, featuring state attorneys general, lawmakers who are physicians and others.
Republican members are also holding sessions on Twitter, making videos and scheduling television interviews day and night, with one veteran lawmaker, Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, appearing on Fox News on Monday.
On the Senate floor on Monday, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, "The reason I ran for the United States Senate was primarily because of this law." Outside groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and Americans for Tax Reform are joining the efforts. Roughly 50 events are planned this week alone by party leaders and members.
Republicans are hoping to influence election-year public opinion on an issue on which they believe they have a substantive advantage, and to drag the conversation away from areas like access to contraception that have dominated the campaign or divided members in recent weeks, with less success for their party.
"This is the seminal issue," said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of his party's conference, in a telephone interview. "I don't think there is an issue on which we are more on the same page with our House Republican colleagues than this."
The campaign is similar to attacks during the initial debate on health care legislation.
The coordination has been carefully pieced together by the staffs of Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, and Republicans on relevant committees. "Everyone is fully engaged on this," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. "You will see a lot of coordinated activity."
In a meeting Monday with reporters, Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the health care law would be a winning issue for Republican candidates this year as in 2010. "Obamacare is not going away," he said.
House Democrats and Obama administration officials raced to defend the law and to publicize its benefits.
Jonathan D. Blum, deputy administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said new research showed that more than 5.1 million Medicare beneficiaries had saved over $3.2 billion on prescription drugs because of the new law, which gradually closes a gap in prescription coverage by offering drug discounts. The discount this year is 50 percent on covered brand-name drugs and 14 percent on generic drugs.
Each day this week the Department of Health and Human Services will release videos in which ordinary Americans extol the benefits of the law. In the first video, released Monday, a woman identified as Helen Rayon of Philadelphia says: "If it weren't for health care reform, many of our seniors would not get to a doctor or get mammograms. It is expensive for us to keep good health. Health care reform will help us so much to know that we can get certain things at a cheaper cost."
Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, said supporters of the health care law were organizing a public information campaign and "truth squads" to combat Republican attacks — what she called "the lies that are being told about the Affordable Care Act." If Republicans repeal the law, Ms. Schakowsky said, they would be "taking away benefits that seniors are already getting."
Representative Xavier Becerra of California, the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, brushed aside opinion polls suggesting that support for the law could drag down some Democratic candidates. "The more people see what the law is doing for them, the more they will like it," Mr. Becerra said.
In fact, the health care law has polled pretty consistently since its inception, with roughly half the country for it and half against it at any given time. But there is some evidence that there is a growing consternation with the requirement that people have health insurance, which the Republican candidates for president have attacked as well.