KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama Seeks To Calm ‘Jittery Democrats’ On Health Law Rollout

Meanwhile, senior GOP leaders plan more votes to chip away at Obamacare, in part to dissuade their rank and file from demanding a government shutdown this fall unless the health law is defunded.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 'Right Side Of History' – Obama Seeks To Calm Jittery Democrats On Health Care, Immigration
President Barack Obama sought to calm jittery Democrats Wednesday as they prepared to head home to face voters, assuring them they're "on the right side of history" despite problems with the launch of his massive health care overhaul and an immigration fight with Republicans. In back-to-back closed sessions with House and Senate Democrats, Obama delivered his broad message about economic prosperity and expanding the middle class. But in return he was confronted with questions from Democrats who are nervous about implementation of the health care law as they look ahead to town hall meetings during the August recess — and to midterm elections next year (7/31).

Politico: McDonough Calms House Freshmen On Obamacare Rollout
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has tried to calm yet another group on congressional Democrats on the Obamacare rollout: House freshmen. McDonough continued his confidence-building tour of Capitol Hill by meeting Tuesday with several dozen first-term members at Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's urging, according to a House Democratic aide (Budoff Brown and Bresnahan, 7/31).

The Washington Post: House Republicans Pull Spending Measure To Focus On Bills to Embarrass White House
The collapse of the transportation bill, meanwhile, diverted attention from the primary goal House GOP leaders hoped to accomplish before heading home for five weeks: embarrassing the Obama administration and scoring political points. Eager to call fresh attention to the troubled Internal Revenue Service and lingering doubts about Obama's health-care law, Republican leaders dubbed this "Stop Government Abuse Week" and had scheduled votes on a collection of partisan measures intended to curb the power of government (O'Keefe and Montgomery, 7/31).

Politico: John Boehner Outlines New House Obamacare Votes
Speaker John Boehner is planning for a number of votes to continue to chip away at Obamacare, an attempt to dissuade Republicans from urging a government shutdown if the law is funded. Over the next few months, the House will vote to require verification for health care subsidies, stop the Independent Payment Advisory Board and eliminate funding streams, according to a source in the closed House Republican Conference meeting where he announced the strategy (Sherman, 7/31).

CNN: Ending Obamacare, Avoiding Gov't Shutdown A Juggling Act For Boehner
While House Speaker John Boehner isn't overtly ruling out picking a fight with President Barack Obama over a spending bill, he is laying out an alternative strategy to avoid a government shutdown. During a closed door meeting on Wednesday with House Republicans, Boehner tried to "gently hold members' hands and walk them away from this," said one GOP source who was in the room. The debate is about whether Republicans should attach a measure to defund Obamacare to a must-pass spending bill. The government runs out of money on September 30, the end of the fiscal year (Walsh, 7/31).

Reuters: House Republicans Leery Of 'Obamacare' Defunding Idea
A Tea Party-inspired plan to kill President Barack Obama's healthcare law by forcing a government shutdown unless funds to implement the law are denied has not gained traction among senior Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers said on Wednesday(Cowan and Bohan, 7/31).

CBS News: Can The GOP Ever Really Stop Obamacare?
The Republican-led House of Representatives Friday will vote for the 40th time to roll back the Affordable Care Act. While symbolically meaningful, this vote will be as futile as the last 39 votes to repeal the law. Obviously, the Democratic-led Senate would never pass a repeal bill, and President Obama would never sign it. The Republican Party remains as committed as ever to repealing or at least dismantling the mammoth health care law that Democrats pushed through Congress in 2010 with zero GOP support. But after years of railing against the law and dozens of votes against it, Republicans are now divided over the best way to attack it (Condon, 8/1).

Texas Tribune: Cruz Calls On Grass Roots In Bid To Defund ACA
Congress has 61 days remaining to pass a resolution to continue financing federal government operations when the 2014 fiscal year begins Sept 1. If the resolution isn't passed, mandatory spending — such as spending on Social Security and Medicare — would continue, while programs and agencies that rely on discretionary spending, such as defense and federal law enforcement, would be shut down until Congress passed a resolution to resume financing those operations. "My focus for the next 61 days is very directly targeted to one thing, and that is working to defund Obamacare," Cruz said Wednesday (Aaronson, 7/31).

Meanwhile, liberal groups plan efforts to defend the law and put the GOP on the defensive -

Politico: Liberal Groups Aim To Put GOP On Defense On Obamacare
Obamacare supporters are launching a new war room operation to stick up for the law, mobilizing liberal groups to talk up its benefits and pound Republicans for trying to cut off its funding. The new effort — to be headed by Americans United for Change, an all-purpose liberal advocacy group, and Protect Your Care, which focused on Obamacare — will include rapid-response messaging and town halls to try to change the conversation over the health care law, its organizers tell POLITICO. They'll start next week, during the August recess, but they're promising to stick around during the massive effort to sign people up for Obamacare this fall (Nather, 7/31).

Politico: DSCC Chair Michael Bennet: Obamacare Will Boost, Not Bite, Dems In 2014
The head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee says Republicans have miscalculated if they think Obamacare will be their ticket to a Senate takeover in 2014. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told reporters at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee's headquarters Wednesday that a year from now the health law probably won't tip tight races — and is more likely to be a boon to Democrats on the November 2014 ballot (Cheney, 8/1).

In other news from Capitol Hill -

Los Angeles Times: White House, GOP Lawmakers Looking At 'Grand Bargain' On Spending
The president was eager to remind lawmakers, as they head out after this week for their August recess, that much work remains to improve the economy and repair the federal budget. When Congress returns to work, it will be in session just nine days before the Sept. 30 deadline to pass legislation to fund the government. … Republicans have proposed trimming Medicare for the next generation of seniors, as well as the cost-of-living adjustment for recipients of Social Security and other government programs. But Democrats and the White House are willing to consider such cuts only if Republicans also agree to new tax revenue, which could come from changing the corporate tax code and doing away from some individual tax deductions for wealthier households (Mascaro and Hennessey, 7/31).

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