KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ On Reform After Meeting With Senate Democrats

President Obama told Senate Democrats Tuesday in an hour-long meeting that they are on the "precipice" of health reform and said that he was "cautiously optimistic" that health reform would get done, the Los Angeles Times reports. "President Obama, acknowledging that he will have to accept serious compromises in the passage of a healthcare overhaul, insisted today that he would not let the public down on an issue that he had made the centerpiece of his first-year domestic agenda." Obama also asked Democrats to not let infighting stop them from passing the health reform legislation. "The American public is 'waiting for us to act,' Obama said, 'and I don't intend to let them down'" (Levey and Hook, 12/15).

NPR: "The point is that health care is really coming down to the line. The Christmas deadline is looming. This is a crucial moment. The president is really putting his capital on the line. He feels that he's close to a historic victory, and the message for the Senators today was to focus on the big picture. ... I think his tone also tells you a little bit about the stakes. He sounded pretty peeved at times. He talked about the misinformation that was out there and the scare tactics. I think he's really trying to provide some cover for his Democrats who are nervous about this bill, which is unpopular in some polls, despite the fact that he keeps on saying he's optimistic we're going to get this (Liasson, 12/15).

USA Today: "In his brief remarks, Obama said there is general agreement on provisions to extend coverage to most Americans and reduced medical costs" (Jackson, 12/15).

The Associated Press reported that Obama said the bill, "no matter what its final form, will be the greatest legislative achievement on health care since the passage of Medicare four decades ago." There was "frustration and angst" expressed in the meeting, according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., but Obama asked lawmakers to get beyond their personal disappointments with the bill to pass reform (Espo, 12/15).

Politico reports that Lieberman acknowledged tension at the meeting but said he "had to do what I thought was right." Lieberman told "Obama and the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday that he 'understood how people were upset with the position I took.'"

"At one point during the private White House meeting, Lieberman said: 'I haven't really had a lot of fun the last couple of weeks.' His comment prompted a retort from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a staunch public option supporter: 'I haven't been having fun either,' Brown said, according to Lieberman. Obama, who was described as upbeat in what was an otherwise serious meeting, responded: 'Why don't we all begin to have some fun? Let's pass this bill'" (Budoff Brown, 12/15).

Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal: "Reid faces the difficult task of winning the support of senators in the Democratic ranks and closing debate on the $848 billion measure by Christmas." Despite "liberals' disappointment over the Medicare expansion's likely omission from the Senate bill, as well as its omission of a government-run health insurance plan, they have not yet suggested that they would withhold their support for the bill. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said Tuesday she would be able to support the bill even if it didn't include the Medicare buy-in or a government-run plan (Yoest, 12/15).

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