Obama Pushes Democrats, Attacks Republicans, Campaigns For Public Support
"President Obama is becoming more personally invested in rallying the public and Congress behind a healthcare overhaul, even as some Republicans raise the stakes in the debate by claiming that defeating his plan would undermine his presidency," the Los Angeles Times reports. Obama will defend his push for health reform in a series of public events this week, as he and senior aides press Democratic lawmakers to support the versions of pending legislation still circulating in congressional committees (Parsons and Levey, 7/21).
On Monday, Obama took direct aim at a Republican senator who has criticized the reform effort, Politico reports. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said last week, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." The president retorted yesterday, "Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families" Later in the day, he used a television interview to remind viewers of Republicans' efforts to derail health reform during the Clinton administration, a GOP victory that ushered in their congressional comeback in the next election cycle.
The push to rally Democrats and the public, and the counterattack on GOP critics, come as Obama's polling slides toward "mere-mortal status" Politico reports. While still personally popular, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday shows only 49 percent of the public in favor of how Obama is handling health reform efforts, while 44 percent disapprove. And legislators, meanwhile are eyeing those numbers in anticipation of the 2010 midterm elections, stirring worries among Democrats whose votes would make or break any overhaul attempt (Budoff Brown, 7/21).
"Our strategy has been to allow this process to advance to the point where it made sense for the president to take the baton," said David Axelrod, a White House adviser, according to the Washington Post. "Now's that time." Part of reestablishing leadership in the health care debate will be proving the president's mettle in cutting deals on Capitol Hill to keep the legislation alive, the Post reports. That will mean negotiating with cost-conscious conservative Democrats, senators who unlike the White House want to tax health benefits, and very tired lawmakers of all stripes who say the administration's Aug. 7 deadline for passing a bill is too tight (Shear and Murray, 7/20).
Roll Call: "It is more important that we get it right than that we get it done before the August break," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate that Democrats are courting in hopes of a bipartisan showing when the Senate bill comes to a vote. Obama has continued to press Congress to produce a bill before the recess, though aides had backed away from the deadline (Koffler and Drucker, 7/21).
The Hill: Obama said he would veto a bill that took the approach to health reform suggested by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in last year's presidential race. McCain had proposed taxing employer-sponsored health benefits in favor of a flat, refundable tax credit that people could use to buy insurance. Obama said he didn't believe the credit would be enough to purchase a plan (Youngman, 7/20).