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GOP Readies Summer Offensive on Health

Congressional Republicans will use the next two weeks to cast the Democratic health care plan as a harmful tax on an ailing economy — and then plan to go for the jugular over the August break.

As they did on the economic stimulus and the budget, House and Senate Republicans are attacking the Democrats’ approach to health care reform as a costly government takeover and will use polling data and a series of events to reinforce a message that they believe is striking a chord with the American public.

“House and Senate Republicans are well aware that the more Americans hear about another trillion-dollar government plan that includes tax hikes on small businesses and cuts to seniors’ care, the less they like it,— said Josh Holmes, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McConnell will join House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a press conference today in a “prebuttal— to President Barack Obama’s prime-time press conference tonight.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) also have held a joint press conference on health care.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is already preparing GOP candidates for an August health care debate and has provided Congressional hopefuls with talking points.

“If the bill increases costs, runs up the deficit and raises taxes in the midst of a recession then that’s not reform. In fact, it’s a serious political liability,— NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said. “With that said, it’s safe to say that Republican candidates will be happily engaging the voters on this very issue in August.—

The House Republican Conference advised Members to schedule roundtables with local doctors to discuss the bill over the monthlong break, according to a memo obtained by Roll Call titled “The August Push, the District Work Period Challenge for All House Republicans,— which was distributed to chiefs of staff, communications directors, district directors and schedulers.

Ryan Loskarn, a spokesman for Alexander, pointed to the 85 floor speeches on health care reform given by 20 GOP Senators, a YouTube series called “The Senate Doctors Show— and several tele-town halls featuring Republican Senators discussing the issue.

Loskarn said Republicans are scheduling more tele-town halls for August.

“Health care reform will impact every American,— Loskarn said. “That’s why Republicans have offered several bills laying out reform options, and it’s why we’ve been so active in getting our point across though traditional means like floor speeches and new approaches like The Senate Doctors Show.’—

Obama in recent days has shifted toward directly attacking Republicans, portraying their opposition to his health initiative as little more than a political attack designed to destroy his presidency. White House strategists calculate that Republicans will draw the public’s ire if they are viewed as politically motivated in their effort to sink the health care bill.

On Monday, Obama condemned Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) for his effort to gin up GOP activists by describing health reform as Obama’s “Waterloo— and saying defeat on the issue could “break— him.

In remarks Tuesday, Obama continued to hammer home the theme that his opponents were driven by political motives, but he refrained from mentioning the Republican Party or referring to any specific Senator.

But Obama’s comments have hardly deterred Republicans on either side of the Capitol from launching protests and planning future political attacks on Democrats.

House Republicans resorted to familiar guerrilla floor tactics on Tuesday by freezing House business for more than three hours as they gave one-minute speeches in protest of Democratic health proposals that they said would bankrupt the country.

By the end of their demonstration, 134 House Republicans had taken to the podium and in each speech raised the question, “Where are the jobs?—

Several House Republican aides were cryptic when asked how they will continue the debate into the August recess. They did not rule out the possibility of an August floor protest like the one held by the Conference last year after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) adjourned the House without passing a comprehensive energy bill.

“Republicans are giving voice to millions of Americans who are angry that the White House and Congressional Democrats’ response to our nation’s challenges includes more spending and higher taxes, which will cause them to lose their jobs,— one House GOP aide said.

Keith Koffler contributed to the report.