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Thursday
Jan132011

Will Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Change Health Care Rhetoric?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The shooting in Arizona last weekend has heightened calls for civility in political discourse, but many are questioning whether the polarized political climate will resurface as Republicans prepare to bring the controversial health care repeal bill to the floor.

Health care has become one of the most politically charged topics of recent years, next only to immigration.

From fiery town hall debates -- many of which turned violent -- in late 2009, to the unusual "You Lie" yell from Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., during President Obama's 2010 State of the Union address, health care has divided the nation along firm partisan lines.

Republicans made health care repeal the cornerstone of the new Congress, vowing to hold a symbolic vote even though it has no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate, much less being signed by Obama.

In the wake of the Tucson shooting, the House GOP leadership postponed the vote that was scheduled to be held on Wednesday.

The new schedule hasn't been announced yet, but the repeal vote will most certainly be one of the first orders of business for the House leadership and Republicans aren't backing down from their promise.

"We were sent there to do this job and it certainly must be done," Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said in a CNBC interview Monday. "We all have heavy hearts today because of what happened over the weekend, but that doesn't negate the fact that we must take action on this law."

The topic is likely to be front and center at the annual GOP congressional retreat that is being held Thursday through Sunday.

With memories of the Tucson tragedy still fresh, some fear reviving this politically-charged topic could be detrimental to the political climate and to Republicans themselves.

But the GOP leadership emphasizes that their focus will be on policy, rather than politics.

"We hope that any debate moving forward in the House will be focused on substantive policy differences," said Laena Fallon, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

Experts, however, doubt whether the oratory on both sides will be any less fiery than before.

The Tucson shooting "has the effect of postponing the vote for a few days but I can't see that changing the rhetoric at all," said Daniel S. Blumenthal, associate dean for community health at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

The Obama administration is also being challenged on another front in the health care battle. On Wednesday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt sent a letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi requesting that his state be allowed to join the multi-state lawsuit that challenges the law's constitutionality.

The law, which most predict will go to Supreme Court, focuses chiefly on the clause that requires all Americans to carry health insurance by 2014. It is one of the central features of the law and one that insurance companies say is needed, given the tough requirements they now face. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio