Congress heads home to gauge political and healthcare winds
Starting this week, most members of Congress will be back home testing the political and healthcare climate ahead of November’s elections.
Few political observers expect healthcare to be as powerful an issue as in 2010, when conservative fury over the passage of Obamacare led to Republicans seizing control of the House. The healthcare reform law has since become part of the national furniture, with many beneficiaries. Polls have shown that about 40% of Americans consistently back the law and about 55% oppose it (though some of those foes want a government single-payer system instead).
“The Affordable Care Act to a large degree is already baked into the cake politically,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political analysis website out of the University of Virginia. “Most voters who are going to be moved by the Affordable Care Act have probably already been moved.” Still, Medicaid expansion could be a factor in some contests, with Democrats in close congressional and gubernatorial races attacking Republicans for opposing the expansion. Jennifer Hayes Clark, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston, also sees potential for Democrats to galvanize women voters over the recent Supreme Court decision allowing companies to opt out of contraceptive coverage on religious grounds.
But unless some blockbuster new controversy emerges, Obamacare isn’t likely to be the top issue on most voters’ minds. “The environment we have today is probably pretty close to the environment we’re going to have on Election Day,” Kondik said.