KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Hopes To Reconquer High-Stakes Health Debate

President Obama is hoping to give a boost to congressional Democrats who are reconvening after a recess beleaguered by harsh criticism, plummeting public opinion, and divisions within the majority party.

The Washington Post:  "President Obama attempted to reinvigorate support for his struggling health-care agenda on Monday by giving a stirring, campaign-style speech to thousands of union members celebrating Labor Day. After a turbulent summer, during which opponents seized control of the health-care debate and liberals criticized the president as not pushing forcefully enough for reform, Obama stepped back into the fray, shirt sleeves rolled up, with an emphatic defense of his policies and his young presidency. ... Obama signaled that he is ready to take a hard-line approach on Wednesday, when he will deliver a crucial address on reform to a far tougher audience," Congress (Mostrous, 9/8).

Wall Street Journal: After a "boisterous Labor Day rally of AFL-CIO members in Cincinnati… the president faces a more delicate task as Congress returns to Washington Tuesday from a bruising month-long recess that turned into a battle over the president's signature domestic-policy issue." He will use Wednesday's speech to draw the line on what must – and must not – show up in any health reform bill that crosses his desk (Adamy, Weisman and Hitt, 9/8).

Christian Science Monitor: The Cincinnati speech "was a glimpse of the president that many Democrats had hoped they had elected in November – a forceful figure using his considerable rhetorical repertory and a clear political mandate to grasp the presidency in his fist" (Sappenfield, 9/7).

The Associated Press: "In a country of deep divisions and ideological extremes, impressions of Obama around here fall somewhere in the middle. Eight months into his presidency, he's not the hero who will fix all the problems, nor is he the villain who caused them. Instead, he is seen as a bridge that leads toward the country's next era - a guide into the new unknown. ... Complicating matters is public that both wants him to stanch the bleeding but is also, as always, skittish about true change" (Sidoti, 9/8).

San Francisco Chronicle: Many Democrats in that audience view Obama's Wednesday speech as "a last-ditch effort to salvage health care reform" and "avert a political and legislative train wreck."

Others, however, are split: "Liberal Democrats are terrified that he will jettison their Holy Grail, while conservative [Democrats] fear that a vote for a public option - characterized by opponents as leading to government-run health care - could doom them in tough re-election fights" (Lochhead, 9/8).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.