Obama Urges Lawmakers To Move Quickly On Health Bills
"After a weeklong overseas trip that pushed him to the fringes of Washington's health care debate, Mr. Obama moved aggressively to reclaim control," the New York Times reports. "He summoned top Democrats to the White House to urge them to stick to his legislative timetable - he wants the House and the Senate to pass bills before the August recess - and appeared in the Rose Garden to cast himself as a kind of sheriff who had just come back to town."
"Don't bet against us," Obama told critics of the reform effort. He told the lawmakers there were "on notice," and that "[i]n action is not an option." Work is going slowly in the Senate, and though House leaders plan to release a proposal Tuesday. "But there is little the president can do at this stage to expedite the legislative process, short of taking a position on some of the most contentious matters under consideration," which he has not done, the Times reports (Stolberg and Pear, 7/13).
"In particular, [Obama] is under mounting pressure to spell out where he stands on two of the most divisive questions confronting lawmakers: how to pay for an overhaul that will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 10 years, and whether it should include a new government-run insurance program as an alternative to private coverage," the Los Angeles Times reports. He is scheduled to be in Michigan today, where the economy is in crisis . He will use the trip to "underscore the need to make medical care more affordable and available." Congress may be frustrated by the president's refusal to take a stand, but as Harold Ickes, who was a senior aide to President Clinton, points out, "The president can only be used so many times" (Levey and Nicholas, 7/14).
"The tough talk in the Rose Garden gave way hours later to behind-the-scenes Lyndon B. Johnson-style lobbying, as Obama pledged in a pair of private meetings with Democratic lawmakers to stake his political capital on this year's top agenda item," the Washington Post reports, adding: "'Behind closed doors, he essentially says: If this sinks, we will have trouble in 2010,' said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at the moderate Third Way think tank" (Connolly, 7/14).
Politico: "He even told fellow Democrats he'd campaign in Iowa for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's re-election, according to a health care industry insider familiar with the meeting. The White House later insisted the offer was a joke, but it underscored just how serious Obama is about getting a bill done this year, since Grassley is the lead Senate GOP negotiator on health reform" (Brown, Frates and O'Connor, 7/13).