White House Retools Message As GOP Opposition, Public Opinion Push Back
"[T]he White House team is retooling its message and strategy, hoping a more modest approach will reinvigorate Obama's signature domestic policy initiative and give him a first-year victory for Democrats to carry into the 2010 midterm elections," the Washington Post reports. An early focus on "fast, broad and bipartisan" reforms has given way to realities including a stiff Republican opposition, lack on consensus in his own party, and falling poll numbers. As a result, the administration and Democratic allies have missed a self-imposed August deadline, turned to harsher critiques of industry players and now appear open to both less-ambitious proposals, and procedural measures that could bypass GOP opposition to achieve a partisan reform bill (Connolly, 8/2).
Sen. John McCain, R-Az., Obama's opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, suggested that a bipartisan reform may now be out of reach in an appearance on CNN Sunday. "Well, first of all, unfortunately, there was no input by Republicans in the writing of the bill. It was all a Democrat proposal. That's not the way you want to begin if you're really interested in a true bipartisan result" (8/2).
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports: "A proposed tax on generous health-insurance packages presents a challenge to President Barack Obama, who promised during his campaign not to raise taxes on the middle class. A plan under debate in Congress would impose a new tax on insurers or employers who provide so-called gold-plated health-care plans. Many economists say a significant part of the cost would eventually be passed to employees, through higher insurance payments or slower wage growth. That could conflict with Mr. Obama's often-repeated promise not to raise taxes on middle-class families" (McKinnon, 7/31).
USA Today reported on administration officials' appearances on the Sunday talk shows: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Obama economic aide Lawrence Summers said they could not rule out tax hikes because of the deficit and the potential cost of the health care overhaul. Asked whether 'new revenues' are in the offing, Geithner said on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos: 'I think what the country needs to do is understand we're going to have to do what it takes'" (Jackson, 8/2).
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama switched "to the economy after several Saturdays of pressing for health care reform," Roll Call reports. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to press the administration on health care. "We need to get the right reform, rather than just rush something through that could leave us in far worse shape in the future," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said in the weekly GOP address (Koffler, 8/1).