The country’s newest conservative advocacy group has decided to take lawmakers to task over Obamacare. The Heritage Foundation’s sister organization, Heritage Action for America, wants healthcare reform repealed and plans to target members of Congress who disagree.
Heritage Action, launched just months ago, recently announced its support for a discharge petition introduced by Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) that would force a vote on the repeal of Obamacare. King needs signatures from 218 congressmen on the petition in order to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on a bill sponsored by Rep. King which would repeal the law entirely.
Founded in April 2010, Heritage Action was primarily a response to the skyrocketing membership at the Heritage Foundation. According to Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham, foundation membership has doubled since 2008 and currently stands at 661,000. “We felt obligated to have the same conversations that were occurring at kitchen tables throughout America,” Needham said.
Heritage Action’s staff of ten came up with the group’s first national campaign: to repeal Obamacare. The organization recently launched a website that features a video advertisement cut by Heritage Action for the campaign. The website and ad were revealed at a recent Bloggers Briefing meeting by Heritage Action Chief Operating Officer Tim Chapman.
“The beauty of this strategy in my mind is that it forces members of Congress—Republicans and Democrats alike—to put their money where their mouth is,” Chapman said. “If they really say they are for repealing Obamacare, they have to sign the discharge petition.”
As a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, the Heritage Foundation is prohibited from backing pieces of legislation. Heritage Action serves as a link between the nearly four-decade-old foundation and grassroots conservative activists. “Heritage has a tremendous reputation and history in providing first-rate research,” said Needham, who previously served as chief of staff to Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner.
Citizen activists are encouraged to participate in Heritage Action’s repeal campaign. The organization’s website has incentives for activists, including a social networking system where users can amass “impact points” for actions taken and reap rewards established by the Heritage Action team. Users may also contact their representative directly from the site and tell them to sign the petition.
Rep. King’s bill to repeal the health care reform law currently has 89 cosponsors. Since introducing his discharge petition on June 16, a dozen lawmakers have signed on, including Reps. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.), Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tenn.), Tom Price (R.-Ga.), and Mike Pence (R.-Ind.).
Although discharge petitions have rarely been used throughout legislative history, success is not impossible. In 2002, proponents of campaign-finance reform used the technique to force a vote on the McCain-Feingold bill. After securing 218 signatures, the House went on to approve the bill that was later passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush.
Unlike co-sponsorship of a bill, the discharge petition process was purposely designed to be difficult. Lawmakers must personally sign the discharge petition themselves. “This is a very proactive step on behalf of a member of Congress,” Chapman noted. Only after securing signatures from the majority of members in the House will the discharge motion become eligible for consideration.
Heritage Action is nonetheless committed to repealing Obamacare. The group’s goal is to first get the Republican caucus on board followed by “Blue Dog” Democrats. Needham said that the effort will require help from citizen activists in their districts.
“As we get into the summer, our goal is to look at who hasn’t signed on and to mobilize members in their districts to apply the heat,” Needham said. “Our goal is to force members of Congress to tell their constituents why they support Obamacare.”