WASHINGTON — The yearlong legislative fight over health care is drawing to a frenzied close as a multimillion-dollar wave of advertising that rivals the ferocity of a presidential campaign takes aim at about 40 House Democrats whose votes will help determine the fate of President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
The coalition of groups opposing the legislation, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is singling out 27 Democrats who supported the health care bill last year and 13 who opposed it. The organizations have spent $11 million this month focusing on these lawmakers, with more spending to come before an expected vote next weekend.
An alliance of groups supporting the health care plan, which works closely with the White House and Democratic leaders, had been spending far less and focusing on fewer districts. But after pharmaceutical companies made a $12 million investment for a final advertising push, spending by both sides for the first time is now nearly the same.
Not only are these swing Democrats being pummeled in a new spate of advertising — which could total $30 million before week's end — but extensive efforts are under way in congressional districts, where groups on both sides of the issue are using tactics similar to get-out-the-vote drives to urge constituents to contact their lawmakers.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged to do "everything we can to make it difficult for them, if not impossible, to pass the bill." He also joined other Republicans Sunday in warning that Democrats would pay for the legislation by losing even more seats than expected in November.