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.”

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora