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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid