Updated at 9:45 a.m. ET with more information.
(AP / CBS)
The White House in recent days has rolled out statements of support for health care reform from a handful of notable Republican leaders. They have come mostly from Republicans with waning influence and fading careers, but they have been recognizable GOP names nonetheless. But as Democrats continue to haul their reform proposals through Congress with virtually no congressional GOP support, do these statements matter to anyone?
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (from the Bush administration) and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist are some of the Republicans who have given recent statements of support for health care reform
. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, formerly a Republican and now an independent, joined them.
Former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, a Republican, and Tom Daschle, a Democrat, released a statement
Wednesday reiterating their support for bipartisan health care reform. The two men, along with former Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, produced a bipartisan reform proposal
But the remarks from these former GOP heavyweights have been filled with caveats as to what kind of reform they would like to see. Furthermore, they stand in stark contrast to statements from both Democratic and Republican Washington "outsiders" who have expressed serious reservations about health care reform.
That has not stopped the White House, though, from holding them up as a mark of President Obama's "bipartisan" approach. Culling "outside-the-beltway" Republican support served Mr. Obama well during his presidential campaign, and it could do the same in the health care debate.
"This is an effective tactic to influence general public opinoin, especially among persuadable independents," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told the Hotsheet.
That said, "it will have no discernible impact among Republicans in Congress," he added.CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care
White House officials asked Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg to put out their recent statements of support, the Los Angeles Times reports
In his daily press briefing
on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Republicans in Washington are "wildly out of step with their constituents who want something to happen on health care this year."
"There are people that have been outside of the cocoon of Washington dealing with rising health care costs … that are actively encouraging the process that's working to take place," Gibbs said, referencing Bloomberg and Schwarzenegger. Health Care Progress Report: October 5
A closer look at the comments from these Republican outsiders shows their opinions may not differ greatly from those of Republicans in Congress. Frist, for instance, told Time magazine he is in favor of stricter regulations on insurance companies to protect consumers as well as a mandate for all Americans to acquire health care. He said, however, that the legislation currently under consideration does not do enough to control costs. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have agreed there should be more consumer protections in the health insurance industry, while the individual mandate has not come down as a partisan issue, with support and opposition from both sides.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), pointed out to the Hotsheet that McConnell has given 42 speeches in support of health care reform on the Senate floor since June -- but that doesn't mean he is supporting the Democratic bills.
"There is strong bipartisan support for addressing health care," Stewart said. "Similarly, there is strong bipartisan opposition to what some Democrats have proposed."
Indeed, both some Democratic and Republican governors, for instance, are concerned about the additional Medicaid burden the Senate Finance Committee's bill could place on state governments.
"I can't think of a worse time for this bill to be coming," said Tennessee's Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen reportedly said
Yet for all the influence governors and outside parties may try to wield, most congressmen -- with a few critical exceptions -- can be relied on to follow the party line on the issue, Sabato said.
"The die is cast. Republicans are not going to vote for health care reform," he said. "Obama wants to present health care as having bipartisan support for public relations purposes for the general electorate."
Even though the White House has not been able to influence Republican minds in Congress, the Obama administration is still trying to portray itself as bipartisan, with this outside support as well as through snatching up available Republicans for cabinet positions, Sabato said.
"They're trying to make the case Obama is running a bipartisan administration outside of Congress," he said.
The tactics may be having some impact. In a recent CBS/ New York Times poll
, 60 percent of Americans said the president is trying to work with Republicans, while only 30 percent said the Republicans are trying to work with the president.
Support from the likes of Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg may also give cover to one key Republican -- Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) -- who may be the only GOP senator to ultimately vote for Mr. Obama's plan.
"The idea here is to at least send a message to Republicans that there are Republicans out there that are on the side of the White House, and to send a message to folks on the fence, specifically Olympia Snowe," CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris
It wouldn't make sense politically, however, for other Republicans to compromise, Sabato said.
"Their stratgety is focused on 2010," he said. "In order to produce a big base turnout, which is key to the midterm elections, they must strongly oppose the health care proposals, and it will probably work. If you want to de-energize the Republican base, just compromise with Obama."