White House Works to Shape Debate Over Health Law

By Robert Pear, New York Times, March 9th, 2012 –
The White House has begun an aggressive campaign to use approaching Supreme Court arguments on the new health care law as a moment to build support for the measure seen asPresident Obama’s signature legislative achievement, hoping to shape public opinion on an issue at the center of the battle for the White House and Congress.

On Wednesday, White House officials summoned dozens of leaders of nonprofit organizations that strongly back the health law to help them coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court when justices hear arguments for three days beginning March 26.

The advocates and officials mapped out a strategy to call attention to tangible benefits of the law, like increased insurance coverage for young adults. Sensitive to the idea that they were encouraging demonstrations, White House officials denied that they were trying to gin up support by encouraging rallies outside the Supreme Court, just a stone’s throw from Congress on Capitol Hill. They said a main purpose of this week’s meeting, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, was to give the various groups a chance to learn of the plans.

For months, Democrats in Congress and progressive groups have urged the White House to make a more forceful defense of the health care law, which is denounced almost daily by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.

Administration officials said that they would much prefer to focus on job creation and the need for clean energy at the moment and that the court arguments were forcing health care to the forefront. But they appear to have decided that they cannot risk allowing the court proceedings to unfold without making sure that backers of the sweeping overhaul will be prominent and outspoken.

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