Asbury Park Press

Activists Urge Runyan To Buck GOP's Bid To Repeal Health Care Bill

Asbury Park Press — Wednesday, January 19, 2011

By JANE ROH / STAFF WRITER

MOUNT LAUREL — About a dozen activists braved slushy weather Tuesday to press Rep. Jon Runyan on bucking the Republican Party in its attempt to repeal health care reform.

"Nobody here says the law is perfect, but why would you backpedal?" implored Crystal Snedden of New Jersey Citizen Action, a progressive group.

"As a freshman congressman whose whole life hasn't been politics, we feel he can vote his conscience and vote for his constituents."

Runyan in November defeated John Adler, the only New Jersey Democrat who voted with Republicans on the bill.

Activists from Citizen Action, the Main Street Alliance and GrassRoots4Change held a news conference outside Runyan's Mount Laurel office before delivering a letter to aides.

On Tuesday, the House debated the Republicans' "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," which would repeal the historic package expanding health coverage to millions of Americans. The GOP majority is on track to pass the bill today, but it likely will be stymied by Senate Democrats.

Ahead of Tuesday afternoon's debate, Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., both members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, unveiled a district breakdown of the effects repeal would have.

In the 3rd District, for instance, Democrats estimated 120,000 to 300,000 residents with pre-existing conditions could be denied insurance coverage, and that up to 14,600 small businesses and 115,000 families could lose tax credits.

Nonetheless, all six New Jersey House Republicans have indicated they support repeal.

"This week I plan on supporting the repeal of the 2010 health care law because I do not believe it is the best way to reduce the cost of medical care for all Americans while also maintaining quality of care," Runyan said, in a statement Tuesday.

The assault on what Republicans derisively call ObamaCare will not stop this week. Leaders in both chambers have vowed to nip at the reform package piecemeal.

Jason Galanes, spokesman for Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., denied the wholesale repeal effort was a waste of time.

"This one bill in the House may or may not be considered by the Senate," Galanes said via e-mail.

"But the American people will continue to pressure Senate leaders to repeal the health care law, as that was part of their message on Nov. 2."

Plenty of voters were angry Obama and the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress seemed overly focused on health care instead of the economy. The new House minority hopes to use that to turn the tables on Republicans this year.

"As we meet this afternoon, there are 15 million unemployed Americans," said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., on the House floor Tuesday.

"And we are re-arguing a political debate about health care again."

In a phone interview, Andrews pointed out that support for the health care law is growing as more of its components take effect.

But polls indicate public opinion on health care is somewhat erratic. A Quinnipiac survey released Tuesday showed 48 percent support repeal and 43 percent are opposed. Yet an Associated Press-GfK poll released Monday showed Americans about evenly split on the bill along with a softening of opposition.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., argued the repeal effort was in line with a mandate to stimulate the economy.

"Instead of encouraging America's leading job creators, this takeover of health care hurts small businesses with more mandates, new taxes and administrative burdens, and higher health care costs," the 5th District Republican said on the House floor.

Supporters of the bill cite nonpartisan research that supports the argument the law will tame spiraling health care costs.

"Mr. Runyan and congressional Republicans have not only turned a blind eye to the American public, they're ignoring warnings from the Congressional Budget Office which has stated the (bill) will produce a net reduction in the federal deficit of over $118 billion, while repealing it will add $230 billion to the deficit," said Tony Hopkins of Willingboro, outside Runyan's office.

Dr. Odette Cohen, a pediatrician in Willingboro, met Tuesday with Runyan in Washington. The progressive Democrat said she failed to persuade him to change his mind about repeal.

"The interesting thing I took away from our conversation is there are so many things we agree on," she said by phone. "At the same time, Republicans are talking about trashing this bill and starting over when they have nothing to put in its place. This is definitely a political stance. They know it doesn't make sense."

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