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GOP Moves Quickly to Capitalize on Health Votes

Re-enforcing the obvious, the National Republican Senatorial Committee made clear Wednesday night it would seek to profit in the midterm elections from Democratic opposition to GOP amendments filed against the health care reform reconciliation package.

In a prepared memorandum, the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm revealed it had delivered a series of critical, campaign-style press releases to local media and grass-roots organizations in states with targeted Democratic incumbents. The NRSC attack on Democratic Senators running for re-election this year focuses on their votes against six changes Republicans sought to make to the reconciliation bill — a package of changes to the health care reform legislation President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.

“The NRSC is working to hold a number of Democrat Senators accountable for their votes on key amendments,” read the committee’s memo, which carried the subject line: “NRSC To Democrat Senators: We’re Watching You.”

The Democrats targeted included Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.). Reid, Bennet and Lincoln all appear to face tough races — at least to this point in the election cycle.

Meanwhile, the NRSC is targeting every Democratic Senator — regardless of their electoral status — who opposed an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that proposed to prohibit sex offenders from using insurance to purchase Viagra.

The Senate voted 57-42 to table the amendment, which killed it. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) voted with the Republicans on the amendment.

Beginning early Wednesday evening, the Senate has been engaged in a “vote-a-rama,” working its way through a series of GOP amendments to the health care reconciliation package. Only two minutes were permitted for debate on each amendment, with the tally on each falling mostly along party lines as Democrats handily defeated nearly two-dozen Republican proposals.

Any change to the reconciliation package would require the House to revote on the measure, and Democrats have been successful in enforcing unity on amendments as the majority looks to close out the health care debate on a positive note. Recognizing they were unlikely to win these votes, Republicans at least wanted to force the Democrats to take politically tough votes that could be used against them in the midterm elections.

The amendments voted on Wednesday evening and highlighted by the NRSC included one by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to prohibit individuals and families earning less than $200,000 and $250,000 annually, respectively, from incurring any tax increases; one by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to force $529 million in Medicare cuts to be spent only strengthening the program’s long-term viability; and one by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to cap insurance premium increases.

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