News / USA

Health Care Major US Election Issue

Health Care Law Major Issue in US Electioni
X
Jim Malone
April 07, 2014 8:26 PM
President Barack Obama’s controversial health care law will be at the center of the political debate during this year’s U.S. congressional midterm election campaign. Despite early problems, the White House recently announced more than seven million people have signed up for health insurance and that has some Democrats breathing a bit easier about their re-election hopes in November. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more.
President Barack Obama’s controversial health care law will be at the center of the political debate during this year’s U.S. congressional midterm election campaign.  

Despite early problems with implementation of the law, the White House recently announced more than seven million people have signed up for health insurance and that has some Democrats breathing a bit easier about their re-election hopes in November.

At a recent Obamacare sign-up event in Los Angeles, volunteer Elliot Petty was pleased with the turnout.  “You know it’s really going great today.  People are really hungry for health care.”  

The White House has been quick to seize on the good news about the health care law, well aware that nervous Democrats are anxious to find the political silver lining in what has been a difficult roll out period for the complex and divisive law.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found the country split on the health care law, 49 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed.  That poll result should encourage Democrats since past readings have put support for the law closer to 40 percent in many surveys.

President Obama was quick to seize on the good news about the sign up figures at a White House rally with supporters of the law.  “I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better.  But the debate over repealing this law is over.  The Affordable Care Act is here to stay!”

Election Year Battle

Republicans say the debate is not over and they have not stopped trying to either repeal the law outright or force some serious changes.  They also see the ongoing debate over the law as a major factor in their favor come the November elections.  

“I can give you hundreds of letters from my constituents who have been harmed by this law,” says House Speaker John Boehner.

Despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, it remains a constant topic of debate in both the House and Senate.  During recent Senate floor speeches, Republican John Thune of South Dakota charged the health care law “continues to wreak havoc on job creation”, while Democrat Richard Durbin accused Republicans of only wanting to kill the law, not improve it.  “Not a single Republican has been willing to sit down and work on bipartisan compromises and changes.  Not one.”

Both parties are continually trying to assess the political impact of the health care debate on the November elections.  Republicans continue to believe Obamacare will work to their benefit because it will motivate their conservative base to get out and vote.  Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center says there is some evidence to support that theory.  

“Well it is an animating factor for the Republican base.  With turnout being so important this is an issue that I think does really get people upset and excited, especially on the Republican side.”

But Doherty also notes that after years of debate there has been no sea-change in terms of public support for or opposition to the law, and that could limit the impact of the issue in the November balloting.  “The overall approval numbers have remained remarkably stable over the four years of the health care law.  It has not moved a lot.  I doubt if Republicans are going to pay the price for making this an issue, but I think it will mainly work to energize their own base.”

The Democrat’s Challenge

President Obama and his Democratic Party allies in Congress may have a tougher task in convincing the public the health care law has overcome its early problems and will benefit the country.  A number of Democrats worried about their re-election bids in the House and Senate are putting some distance between themselves and the law, even as the White House and Democratic National Committee highlight the recent surge in signups.

Trying to convince the public the Affordable Care Act is a net positive only adds to the Democrat’s challenges for 2014.  The party controlling the White House usually loses seats in midterm elections during a president’s second term, says analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center.  

“I think the two biggest factors underlying a midterm election are; how is the economy doing, and how is the president in the White House doing?  And ultimately midterm elections don’t go very well for the president’s party, they tend to go against it.  And if the economy is worse, it’s even worse.  And if the president’s unpopular, it’s even worse.”

The president’s popularity has hovered near some record lows in recent months, often in the low 40’s in terms of public approval.  That has made some Democrats nervous about their prospects in November as well and many of them are hoping for some sort of political rebound for the president in the months ahead.

Most of the focus in this year’s midterm battle will be on the Senate, where Republicans appear to have an excellent chance to gain the six seats necessary for them to claim a majority.  Several vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrats are running in states that supported Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, and a recent Supreme Court decision further broadening the reach of wealthy campaign donors should also help Republican candidates this year.

Fortier predicts it could be late on election night on November 4th before we know which party controls the Senate, but he says it is probable that Republicans will make gains in both the House and Senate.  “I think we will be wondering whether they get to 50 seats or 51 seats, but there is a reasonable chance for Republicans to eke out a majority in the Senate as well as holding their majority in the House.”

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More