Centrist Dems Have Mixed Responses To New Obama Health Plan
"The sweeping health-care package unveiled this week by the White House appears to face big hurdles in the House, with abortion and unease among moderates potential stumbling blocks to winning passage of the legislation," The Wall Street Journal reports. President Obama's proposal Monday has "drawn mixed reviews from moderate Democrats," who face electoral pressures and in some cases dispute specific policy ideas. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., for instance, "criticized a new White House provision that would give the federal government powers to hold down insurance premiums, saying that should be up to the states" (Adamy and Hitt, 2/24).
McClatchy: "Because of Obama's pending summit, virtually no Democrats wanted to criticize the president's effort publicly, but it was clear that once the summit's over, the White House faces political and substantive problems in getting a comprehensive package approved. Many centrist Democrats face re-election in November in conservative states and districts, and Republicans are eagerly trying to use Democrats' health care positions against them" (Lightman, 2/23).
One alternative to considering comprehensive legislation may be to pass it in pieces, The Washington Times reports. "We may not be able to do it all," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. "I hope we can do it all in a comprehensive piece of legislation that would provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans. But having said that, if we can't, then you know me - if you can't do a whole, doing part is also good" (Haberkorn, 2/24).
But Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are "marketing" the plan to their members, Roll Call reports. They "praised Obama for moving substantially in the House's direction with his health care blueprint. And they are also hoping to convince Democratic lawmakers upset by the Senate's provisions on abortion, immigration or other provisions to put off those fights for another day" (Dennis and Bendery, 2/24).
The Hill: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats can support the major parts of the healthcare proposal released by the White House. ... Pelosi also didn't object to the lack of a public insurance plan in Obama's bill. Liberals in the House have pled for Obama to support the public option, and had included it in their bill as a way to ensure competition with private insurance and to drive down healthcare costs" (Alarkon, 2/23).
In the meantime, "[t]he intense political jockeying that defines the healthcare overhaul does not appear to have seeped in to House Democrats' attempt to move smaller pieces of health legislation," CongressDaily reports. A measure to strip health insurers of their antitrust exemption appears poised to move forward with bipartisan support (Edney and House, 2/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.