WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's health care legislation doesn't exist yet, but Senate Republicans are already seeking and getting detailed advice on the best way to attack it.
Such as, "The plan put forward by the Democrats will deny people treatments they need and make them wait to get the treatments they are allowed to receive."
Or, "a committee of Washington bureaucrats will establish the standard of care for all Americans."
The suggestions are contained in a 28-page presentation by Frank Luntz, who has long experience in advising Republicans on tailoring their speeches and phrase-making to achieve maximum political benefit.
Luntz reviewed his recommendations Wednesday with aides to conservative Republicans in a session organized by the Republican Policy Committee, headed by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
"The policy committee brings in all kinds of people. He presented us with ways to communicate better and we listened," said Rebecca Fisher, a spokeswoman for the group.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said, "Key Republicans prepare to fight a bill that doesn't even exist. The American people in November showed their strong support for putting progress before partisan politics. Instead of heeding this call, it appears some Republicans have chosen to take their just-say-no strategy to a new low," he said in a statement.
Democrats and the White House have pledged to work with Republicans on legislation, but have also said that if those efforts fail, they could pursue a partisan measure this fall.
Ironically, the session came on a day when Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., met at the White House with President Barack Obama to discuss efforts to draft bipartisan health care overhaul legislation. Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Grassley is the senior Republican on the panel.
Remaking the nation's health care system was a major pledge of Obama's presidential campaign, and he is working with Congress to cut costs while expanding access. Legislation, yet to be drafted, is expected on the floor of the House and Senate later this year.
Advice for Republicans
Poll testing rhetoric is a technique both parties use, and in his presentation, Luntz credits Obama with making skillful use of language. He's also got some pointed advice to Republicans eager to doom the as-yet unwritten legislation.
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"Your political opponents are the Democrats in Congress and the bureaucrats in Washington, not President Obama. Every time we test language that criticized the president by name, the response was negative even among Republicans," Luntz wrote. " Americans want solutions, not politics."
Of course, that doesn't mean Republicans should give Obama a free ride, in Luntz's view.
One section of his presentation is, "Which is the best reason to oppose Obama?"
The most successful attack is, "It will lead to the gov't setting standards instead of the doctor who really knows best."
That was followed closely by, "It will lead to the gov't rationing care, making people stand in line and denying people treatment like they do elsewhere."
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