The Health Care Push: Grassroots Gear Up For Recess

When Congress leaves Washington, DC at the end of the week for a month-long August recess, the push for health care reform will follow.

For months, President Obama and his Democratic supporters have lobbied for an overhaul; in August, Obama will continue his push, but he will be joined by liberal activists who are planning rallies, door-to-door canvasses, and events aimed at swing senators, all taking place out in the states and organized to apply pressure to senators as they connoiter with constituents and seek feedback on a range of issues.

August will usher in a barrage of organized grassroots (or Astroturfed--whatever you want to call it) activity both for and against Obama's reform push. The conservative group FreedomWorks, for instance--which had a hand in facilitating the April 15 tea parties--will encourage its members to visit Senate offices and show up at town-hall meetings held by Democratic lawmakers, armed with critical questions about Obama's health reform push.

Here's what the pro-reform side will be doing to garner support:

Organizing for America (OFA), the DNC-led former Obama campaign apparatus, plans to have staff in all 50 states by the end of the summer (right now, it has staff in 38); it also has volunteer summer organizers at its disposal. OFA has billed itself as a grassroots field program to support Obama's legislative agenda, and its staffers and volunteers will be organizing OFA's members (anyone who signed onto Obama's supporter list) to visit and call legislators' offices, and the group will hold press conferences and door-to-door canvasses in support of Obama's reform effort, according to a Democratic official.

The organization of progressive activist groups backing Obama's push will also be busy.

Health Care for America Now! (HCAN), a coalition built specifically to back Obama's health care reform initiatige, will organize events throughout the month. The coalition includes 1,000 organizations in 46 states--including national groups and labor unions like AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Americans United for Change, ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and says it will continue to run TV ads during August, which are already on the air in targeted states and congressional districts.

It will also do some extensive field work, including thank-you events August 1-7 in the districts of all representatives who vote "yes" on the House bill now being hammered out (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged passage by the end of the week), a rally in West Virginia August 2, a rally in Chicago August 4, and canvass days August 8 and 22.

HCAN says it will target GOP districts in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Arizona in the first two weeks of August with press conferences and canvasses; HCAN members will also attend lawmakers' town-hall meetings and deliver pro-health-care-reform letters to lawmakers' district and state offices, the group says.

HCAN will hit Maine particularly hard, as two swing Senate votes reside there in moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. HCAN has planned a listening tour with the American Medical Association, 300-400 phone calls per week to legislative offices, and 20 visits to members' offices, four of which will be delegations of small business people, in Maine.

In Pennsylvania, home of moderate Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter, HCAN will hold a "health care weekend" August 14-16, which will include leafletting at worksites and churches, canvassing, phone banking, and hanging banners on 100 bridges across the state.

So that's what Republicans and moderate Democrats have to look forward to when they go home to talk to their constituents about health care.