As the debate over health care reform enters its final weeks, the AFL-CIO is launching its largest lobbying effort to date, dispatching 175 labor leaders to Capitol Hill and pouring $1.5 million into a new ad campaign to fight key aspects of the Senate's legislation.
In what an aide is calling "the largest fly-in we have done since the health care campaign began," the union conglomerate is blitzing both House and Senate offices this week, demanding a public option for insurance coverage, a requirement that employers cover insurance for their workers and a pay-for system that does not rely on taxing high-end health care benefits. The Senate seems poised to oppose the AFL-CIO on all three of these fronts -- setting up, what will likely be, an intense set of negotiations with the House should the legislation come to conference committee.
The targets of the AFL-CIO's newest effort include lawmakers from at least 16 states, an aide says. Labor leaders will be flying in from Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Missouri, California, Nevada, Maryland, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia.
"There's the straight-up policy angle that we believe the House version is better public policy, to have the very rich pay instead of working families," said Eddie Vale, spokesman for the AFL-CIO. "But we will also be making the political argument. Democrats campaigned during the election saying, 'We're going to protect workers from having their benefits taxed.' If they don't come through on their campaign promises, [that] is going to depress their base and hurt them in 2010."
In addition to the in-office visits, the AFL-CIO, which has been one of the most forceful progressive players in the health care debate, is also taking to the airwaves. The group is putting $1.5 million behind a new television ad campaign. The spot, which is airing both nationally and in Delaware, Indiana, North Dakota and Virginia, goes after the Senate for "taxing worker's health care benefits."
Watch the ad: