WASHINGTON -- Pressure continues to mount on Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who says she remains uncommitted on a health care reform bill as her suburban Las Vegas district gets transformed into a battleground the longer she holds out.
With days to go before an anticipated vote in the House, Titus said nobody is twisting her arm -- at least not yet. She is unhappy with the status quo in health care and wants to vote for change but wants to see more details of the emerging bill before she reaches a decision.
Although Titus has been critical of provisions in the bill being considered, and has laid out what she would prefer in terms of health care availability and affordability, she has stopped short of threatening to vote against it.
Meanwhile back in Nevada, her constituents are getting calls from polling companies taking their temperature on health care in bids to influence their representative.
And television viewers have been exposed to messages from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several other groups urging them to implore their congresswoman to vote against the landmark legislation.
No pro-reform ads are on the air, although it was reported Tuesday by Politico.com that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association -- the drug makers -- was preparing commercials supportive of health care reform to run in 43 Democratic districts.
Today, MoveOn.org, the liberal grassroots group, will hold a rally at Titus' district office on Eastern Avenue, urging her to declare for a bill designed to make health insurance coverage available to millions more Americans and level the playing field between patients and insurance companies.
But while doing so, critics say the effort would lead to higher premiums and costs overall, increase the federal deficit and give the government an unprecedented level of influence in health care.
"Nevada needs Rep. Titus to help get health care reform done, now! The time has come for members of Congress to pick a side on health care reform, and we need to know where Rep. Titus stands," said Karen Benzer, a MoveOn member from Las Vegas.
On the other hand, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday released a poll indicating the measure is unpopular among 57 percent of voters in Titus' district, while 34 percent favor it.
By a small margin, the survey indicated the politically safer vote for Titus, a Democrat, would be to oppose the bill, even if it means flip-flopping on her support for an earlier version last November.
Forty percent of those polled said they would be more inclined to return Titus to Congress if she switched and voted against the new bill, while 33 percent said they want her to remain consistent.
In other snapshots from the poll, 58 percent believe the bill would raise their health care costs, while 73 percent believe it would increase the deficit. The poll of 400 likely voters was conducted March 8-10. The error margin was 4.9 percent.
"There should be absolutely no question in anyone's mind how Americans view this health care bill," said Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president of government affairs. "This legislation is among the most unpopular proposals in recent memory and Members of Congress would be well advised to listen to their constituents' concerns."
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, has run commercials in Southern Nevada against the bill, as has the American Future Fund, which demanded that Titus vote to "start over" on health care.
Titus is one of several dozen lawmakers being targeted by interest groups on health care reform. Polls show her in a close race with Republican challenger Joe Heck in a district that previously elected a Republican to Congress and that analysts say could swing back in a year when Washington incumbents are not being held in high regard.
The Third District contains Henderson, parts of North Las Vegas and Summerlin, Boulder City, Laughlin, and other portions of unincorporated Clark County.
"I have no doubt the heat is going to get stronger because she (Titus) is one of those swing votes that (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and Obama are trying hard to get into the win column," said Mark Peplowski, who teaches political science at the College of Southern Nevada.
"She wants to make sure from a policy standpoint and a political standpoint she doesn't cut herself off from re-election," Peplowski said. "I think she is trying to get the pulse of her district. She has got to be concerned with what the district's needs and views are before she takes a vote on this bill."
Titus said Tuesday she remains uncommitted on the bill. In letters to constituents she says there is no doubt the present state of health care insurance is unacceptable and some change is needed.
But she has concerns about the Senate bill on which House members will vote, along with an accompanying measure to "fix" its flaws, which from her perspective include taxes on certain health plans and weakened consumer protections.
With days to go before an anticipated vote, Titus has not been invited to the White House for personal attention from President Barack Obama nor has she received calls from Cabinet members, her office said.
"They are not twisting my arm because I have made it very clear, don't even talk to me until we get the pieces filled out," Titus said. Still to be determined in her view are the exact details, the cost of the roughly $875 billion bill and how exactly leaders plan to get it passed so that questionable parts of it are fixed.
Andrew Stoddard, her spokesman, said Titus is paying little attention to the polls and commercials, and will base her vote on conversations with constituents, telephone town hall meetings and supermarket gatherings she calls "Congress on the Corner."
On Tuesday, Titus gave a short speech on the House floor in which she talked about things she has done lately, and her availability to the people she represents.
"I have put $1.6 million directly in the pockets of Southern Nevadans by fighting for veterans to get their benefits; seniors to get their Social Security benefits; and homeowners to receive loan modifications that keep them in their homes," Titus said. "I have made it a top priority to stay closely connected to my constituents."
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760.