June 5th, 2009
01:47 PM ET
9 years ago

Democrats mount grass roots effort to push health care reform

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats on Capitol Hill prepare to unveil landmark bills to dramatically overhaul the nation's health care system, the White House and the Democratic National Committee are mounting increased efforts to rally public support around the idea.

On Saturday the DNC's advocacy arm, Organizing for America, is sponsoring thousands of meetings across the country in which it says tens of thousands of activists will discuss how to change the system, will hear a message from President Obama encouraging their activities, and will be recruited to engage in other activities that will be held throughout the summer's "campaign for healthcare reform."

In the message, the President says after decades of trying real reform is possible, in part because some groups who have never worked before are now joining together. “But the most important seat at the table belongs to you. To get this done, I need your voice to be part of the debate, and it needs to happen now,” he says, according to an excerpt of his remarks obtained by CNN.

In March, the group sponsored a canvassing effort and collected hundreds of thousands of pledges of support for the administration's budget bill. It's also mounted an effort to support the president's Supreme Court pick, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. This effort, though, will be the most sustained to date on a key agenda item for the president.

Activists on all sides are gearing up for a crucial few months. The first public outlines of a bill could be unveiled within the next week, and the Senate Finance and Health, Education and Labor panels are trying to pass measures by the end of the month. President Obama has asked both the House and Senate to act before the August recess.

"The most powerful way to break through that noise in Washington is for millions of ordinary people to speak up and say you demand health care reform now and to explain why it matters so much in your lives. So right now please add your name if you too support the three core principles I’ve laid out for health care,” Obama says in the address. Those core principles, he says, are controlling costs, guaranteeing choice and guaranteeing care.

So far, the White House is leaving the drafting of the specific bills to Congress, although administration officials are in close contact with members and their aides. This week, in a letter to two key committee chairmen - Sens. Edward Kennedy and Max Baucus - the president backed the idea of offering a new government insurance option. The idea would be one of the most contentious elements of any potential package, since many Republicans have said they oppose that concept.

Republicans have come up with their own health care proposals that emphasize choice, and say this weekend's efforts will not help build a widespread consensus.

"There is a bipartisan effort that could be made here that could result in broad based support for real changes in our health care system that the American people want. I would like to be part of that. Lots of Republicans would do too, but we we can't get through the door to be really part of this discussion," said Rep. Roy Blunt, who heads a House GOP health task force. "Activating the grass roots effort from the campaign is one way to keep your campaign effort alive. It is not a particularly effective way to create a bipartisan solution to an important problem."

As the first legislative action on the issue nears, interest groups involved in all sides are expected to ramp up their efforts. Conservatives for Patient Rights, which is pushing for less government involvement and is led by former Columbia/HCA executive Rick Scott, just launched a new $1.1 million campaign. Health Care for America Now, a coalition of groups pushing for major reform including a government insurance option, says it will soon release new ads and is is planning on bringing 5,000 to Washington on June 25 to lobby about 300 members of Congress.

The White House and Democrats are looking to build momentum that would allow them to push through the tough roadblocks ahead by emphasizing the economic costs of inaction. The DNC says it is collecting real-life examples ofproblems with today's system and will use them to help build public support for change. "We are going to be getting out these stories and putting a real face on the need for health care reform. we are going be showing these stories to elected members," says Jeremy Bird of Organizing for America. "We are going to be publicizing them in every single way we can. and our volunteers will be out there talking about the stories."

In a conference call last week with OFA volunteers, the president tried to rally supporters. "I think the status quo is unacceptable, and that we've got to get it done this year. If we don't get it done this year we're not going to get it done," he said.

(updated 7 pm Friday with additional quotes)

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Barbara Campbell

    Thank goodness America finally has a president and congressional majority with the courage to take on the entrenched insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

    June 5, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. joan

    I am joining them and I am a republican. I need healtchare!

    June 5, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. history repeats

    i cannot wait for them to change the current system! i am buried with medical bills! even after the changes take affect and we are paying less the looney right will still be complaining though. they are so out of touch

    June 5, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. southerncousin

    Isn't it cute how the dope smokin' libs come up with these names like Organizing for America when they are trying to rob us blind. They took their lessons from George Soros, ACORN and the unions when it comes to stealing our money.

    June 5, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Dan, TX

    I hope the republicans are doing this too. Whether you are a democrat or republican we have to have universal coverage. That means everyone has health insurance, and if someone can't afford it, then the States will have to pay for it. I'm fine if you require states to provide coverage and not the Federal government. Let the states raise taxes, instead of the Feds if you prefer States to retain as much power as possible. However, this does have interstate commerce issues.

    And a single payer system as an OPTION is fine. Keep the insurance you have now – it is probably better than the single payer system. But the single payer system will be cheaper, so people who are healthy and know they won't need medical care and will never have an emergency can use the cheaper single payer system that has fewer benefits than employee sponsored plans. So employees will just continue to let business foot the bill for health care, and the poor will get the crappy insurance (way better than no insurance and cheaper for all of us).

    June 5, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. Alan

    This all sounds fine and dandy, but how are we going to pay for this. Let's be realistic here, we are already in a economic meltdown and the the govt has borrowed trillions, to no avial, and now we are going to spend another trillion on healthcare that we do not have.

    Obama's team is floating the idea of a national sales tax on TOP of the current income tax to help pay for it. That's right, help pay for it. This national income tax would be set a 25% and there would be no exemptions for anything. Ex: Ford pays an extra 25% for tires and then you pay another 25% for the additional cost. Some items could cost as much a 50% more than they do now.

    I know it sounds warm and fuzzzy to think that the govt is going to provide you with free medical care. But it will be anything but free.

    One good thing that would come out of this is that the 50% of the population that doesn't contribute would be forced to pay something at least!!

    June 5, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. dan

    If we need an extra $20 billion or so:


    from the Bill of Rights:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    June 5, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. karen

    he can send Acorn out to canvass and rally for Healthcare reform and i won't matter. We don't want government run Healtcare and we don't want our employers taxed for it. Maybe he didn't get the memo

    June 5, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. val

    The health insurance companies are ripping people off. We need affordable health coverage now! People are drowning in medical bills. This is very critical time in passing health reform. If anyone supports health care reform,please voice your opinoin. We can't let these. lobbist win. Do you know that health insurance companies are not under the anti trust laws and they keep raise our coverage every year. There is really no competition in the health insurance industry because they all stick together in raising our premiums. Let your Senator and Congress they work for you and not health care lobbist. Obama can't do this by himself, he needs the American People support on this issusse. Again, I'm urging supporters to express that we need healthcare reform.

    June 5, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  10. Emma

    Push for public health care and let the private carriers go out of business. They are responsible for the high cost of health insurance because they always look to make a profit, a BIG profit off the backs of poor workers and corporations.

    The Republicans are just trying to keep their campaign couffers filled with money from private insurers.


    June 5, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Bob in Pa

    Excuse me, but "grass roots" movements start with the people then move up the political ladder. Leaders withing a political party do not start a grass roots movement.

    June 5, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. Dallas Independent - thank goodness

    If my healthcare is in the hands of Democrats, I'm scared to death!

    June 5, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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