House Republicans Plan Weekend Health Care Fight

Posted March 19, 2010 at 6:25pm

House Republicans on Friday readied for the weekend fight over health care reform saying that Democrats were overstating their momentum and that the bill still could be beaten.

For the past week, House Republican leaders have worked to characterize the bill as a work of “budget trickery” laden with “sweetheart deals” and have pledged to do anything in their power to block the bill from becoming law.

“I have never seen a bill pass in the Congress that the American people already knew about and had already decided ‘no,'” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Friday morning. “And so, it’s going to be interesting here over the next couple of days, as the scheming and jamming continues.”

Boehner was coy when asked by reporters what procedural tactics Republicans may use this weekend to slow down the process but hinted that some of the protests may occur in the form of amendments during the Saturday meeting of the House Rules Committee.

“I’m sure that we have our ideas about what to do with this bill, but nothing bigger than ‘Let’s kill the bill [and] start over with a clean sheet of paper,'” Boehner said.

The House Republican Conference is expected to meet to discuss its endgame strategy Saturday afternoon.

On Thursday, two separate GOP resolutions aimed at discrediting Democratic leaders and derailing the health care reform bill failed to gain the necessary Member support to be considered on the House floor.

But the protests over the health care reform bill will not be limited to the House floor.

Several Republicans outside of the leadership circle will participate in an afternoon rally of tea party activists on Saturday afternoon.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) and Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Joe Wilson (S.C.) and Phil Gingrey (Ga.) are scheduled to attend the protest in Upper Senate Park.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) predicted that Democrats were still short on votes and would cut more deals in the 11th hour to tempt wavering Members into “yes” votes.

“I just think it is clearly false momentum because this is all built … upon some assumptions that just don’t bear out and that now is indicative of why they are having so many difficulties in lining up their votes,” Cantor said. “The votes still aren’t there.”

In a memo Friday evening titled “No-Mentum: Inside the Whip Count,” Cantor cautioned vulnerable Democrats not to believe their leadership’s hype.

“It has been widely reported that the White House and congressional Democrats are gaining momentum towards passing their government take-over of health care. … Democrat Leadership may be selling that story to recalcitrant rank-and-file Democrats, but those Democrats shouldn’t be buying it,” the memo said.

In response to Cantor’s remarks, Kristie Greco, a spokeswoman for Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, “Stick around. You’ll see.”

Democrats have rejected the Republican assertions as deceptive and have asserted that the minority party will say anything to derail health care reform.

Several Democrats on Friday afternoon pointed to an alleged hoax memo that House Republicans distributed to the press, and Democrats cited it on the House floor as proof that the GOP would stop at nothing to sink the health care reform bill.

The alleged memo purports to tell Democratic staffers to avoid talking about the “doc fix,” a plan to prevent a massive cut in doctor reimbursements under Medicare.

Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Stephanie Lundberg, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), issued a joint statement Friday evening condemning the memo and earlier attacks on the House floor accusing Democratic Members of trading votes for high-level appointments.

“Opponents of health reform can’t win on the merits of their arguments so they must stoop to acts of desperation to deny Americans an honest and truthful debate,” they said. “The latest examples of this came today with the maligning of Democratic Members on the House Floor, and the circulation of an apparently fraudulent memo that was falsely attributed to Democratic staffers. These two incidents are exhibits Y and Z in a long line of evidence showing that opponents of health reform will do anything and say anything to stand in the way.”

Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, called the memo “a new low that is reminiscent of the Nixon Dirty Tricks Squad.”

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.