White House Stung By Liberal Health Bill Backlash
The Wall Street Journal reports on the criticism emanating from the left regarding the Senate health bill. "Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, 'This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.' Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run 'public option' and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies."
"The left's dissatisfaction could help President Barack Obama by undermining Republican claims that the legislation marks a march toward socialism. But it comes at a bad moment for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is playing a giant game of political Whac-A-Mole as he tries to assemble the 60 votes he needs to move the legislation past an anticipated filibuster" (Bendavid and Wallsten, 12/18).
Los Angeles Times, on advocates' efforts to fight off the liberals' criticism: "Bill Clinton joins the White House and groups who say the bill makes positive changes and mustn't fail. The White House and several advocacy groups banded together Thursday in an attempt to pacify liberals who are furious over compromises made to the Senate healthcare legislation. The bill's advocates said that it still would make a difference in the lives of Americans, and warned that the cost of failure was high. ... Obama also kept up his effort to woo Maine Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a moderate Republican who backed healthcare legislation in the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year. Snowe, who has said that she needs more time to review the legislation, met with the president and ... and talked with him by phone Thursday, she said" (Oliphant, 12/18).
Financial Times: "Privately, officials said they suspected Mr. Dean was partly motivated by a long-running feud with Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama's chief of staff, who has made clear the White House's overriding aim is to pass healthcare reform and signalled much less concern about the precise contours of the bill. But supporters of the administration said Mr Obama faced a backlash from progressives that could damage him in next year's mid-term congressional elections. ... Yesterday's escalation of the dispute between liberals and the White House coincided with opinion polls showing sharply declining support for healthcare reform. A poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC also showed that Mr Obama's personal approval ratings had dropped below 50 per cent for the first time since he took office" (Luce, 12/18).
The New York Times: "In the great health care debate of 2009, President Obama has cast himself as a cold-eyed pragmatist, willing to compromise in exchange for votes. Now ideology - an uprising on the Democratic left - is smacking the pragmatic president in the face. Stung by the intense White House effort to court the votes of moderates liberals like Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, liberals are signaling that they have compromised enough" (Stolberg, 12/17).
Politico: "The foot soldiers of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, organized to go into action when key elements of his agenda are at stake, aren't universally enthusiastic about fighting for the health care compromise now before the Senate. On Wednesday morning, Organizing for America, as Obama's reconstituted campaign organization is now known, emailed its list of 13 million Obama supporters asking them to 'call your senators now and help us "ring in reform."' The campaign yielded 150,000 calls less than half the number of a similar effort in October and it prompted a backlash among online and local activists who had logged countless volunteer supporting Obama's campaign and legislative agenda, but who felt betrayed by recent Democratic concessions in the healthcare reform fight" (Vogel, 12/17).
Politico, in a second story, reports on White House outreach efforts to liberals. Advisers David Axelrod and Nancy-Ann DeParle "held a conference call Thursday night with progressive bloggers -- in what Axelrod described as a bid to clear the air after several tense days. Axelrod tempered his statement Thursday morning on MSNBC that calls by Howard Dean and others on the left to defeat the bill were 'insane.' ... Participants included bloggers from Daily Kos, Open Left, Crooks and Liars, Huffington Post and The Nation. According to an account on DailyKos, DeParle said the provisions in the Senate bill need to be improved and moved closer to what the House bill includes, particularly on affordability." They discussed various topics including the relationship between the administration and liberal bloggers (Budoff Brown, 12/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.