Is Obama Ready To Drop The Public Option From Reform Legislation?
As the President prepares for his Wednesday night address to Congress, he is reportedly ready to draw "lines in the sand" and news outlets disputed whether he's willing to drop a public plan in any health overhaul legislation.
The Associated Press: "The Obama administration's bottom line on a government health insurance option blurred Sunday as White House officials stressed support but stopped short of calling it a must-have part of an overhaul. ... White House political adviser David Axelrod said Obama is 'not walking away' from a public plan. But asked if the president would veto a bill that came to him without the option, Axelrod declined to answer. The president 'believes it should be in the plan, and he expects to be in the plan, and that's our position,' Axelrod told The Associated Press. Asked if that means a public plan has to be in the bill for Obama to sign it, Axelrod responded: 'I'm not going to deal in hypotheticals. ... He believes it's important'" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/6).
Meanwhile, Politico reports that "White House senior adviser David Axelrod tells POLITICO that the administration is not dialing back its support for a public health-insurance option as part of a reform bill, and that a comment he made on NBC's 'Meet the Press' was misinterpreted. Axelrod told NBC's David Gregory that President Barack Obama 'certainly agrees that we have to have competition and choice, to hold the insurance companies honest. He believes the public option is a good tool. Now, it shouldn't define the whole health care debate, however.'
Meanwhile, during an appearance on the ABC News program "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' indicated that President Obama may be developing his own plan, according to the transcript on CQ Politics:
"GIBBS: Well, George, I think if viewers for ABC and everybody else tune in to hear the president at 8:00 on Wednesday night, they'll leave that speech knowing exactly where the president stands, exactly what he thinks we have to do to get health care done -- health care reform done this year. And he intends to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what he won't accept as well?
GIBBS: Well, we prefer to outline the positive rather than the negative, but I'm sure he will draw some lines in the sand on that...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about this question about legislation, because there has been some talk that the president will actually draft legislative language. Is that what is happening right now?
GIBBS: Well, look, we've been looking at legislative language for months. You have now several different proposals in the House and the Senate that have made their way through the committee process.
Obviously the Senate Finance Committee continues to work. So you're going to have ideas that come at this from a couple of different directions. And the president has to take all of those strands and pull them together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he will do that and then he will put his ideas on the table?
GIBBS: Well, we're going to certainly, I think -- as I said, people will leave that speech knowing where he stands. And if it takes doing whatever to get health care done, the president is ready, willing, and able to go do that."
CNN: "The White House emphasized Friday that no formal bill has been written. 'The president has been reviewing all of the various legislative proposals, but no decision has been made about whether formal legislation will be presented," said Dan Pfeiffer, deputy communications director. A source close to the White House said the administration is leaning toward dropping the public option, and continues to zero in on persuading Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to come on board."
"The source said the bill that would be presented to Snowe would leave out a public option but include a trigger provision that could lead to the introduction of a new government-run insurance plan under certain circumstances. The legislation would cover most, though not all, of the 46 million uninsured Americans. It would also include popular insurance reforms, such as ending the insurance industry practice of using pre-existing conditions to deny coverage" (Yellin, Borger, Henry, Bash, 9/5).
In a separate analysis, The Associated Press says: "As Congress returns to work this week, President Barack Obama and lawmakers have three broad options - competing treatment plans for a patient whose vital signs are growing weak. ... Democrats - and liberals in particular - want heroic measures and large scale intervention. They think the legislation needs big new ideas such as a public insurance plan that would have government offering coverage to middle-class workers and their families."
"Republicans (are) ... proposing help for small business owners and the self-employed, and some GOP lawmakers probably could go along with expanding current programs that cover the poorest of the poor.
A third group, including moderates from both parties, supports a holistic approach that would put the country firmly on track to coverage for all. They believe government should help some middle-class people through subsidies for private coverage, but that a federal insurance plan isn't needed" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/5).
In a front-page story headlined "Clinton's Health Defeat Sways Obama Tactics," The New York Times reports: "In 1994, Democrats' dysfunction over fulfilling a new president's campaign promise contributed to the party's loss of its 40-year dominance of Congress. Now that memory is being revived, and it is the message the White House and Congressional leaders will press when lawmakers return this week, still divided and now spooked after the turbulent town-hall-style meetings, downbeat polls and distortions of August."
"Republicans early on united behind the lesson they took from the past struggle, that they stand to gain politically in next year's elections if Democrats do nothing. But the Democrats' version similarly resonates with all party factions, giving Mr. Obama perhaps his best leverage to unify them to do something. In now-familiar financial parlance, this one is 'too big to fail'" (Calmes, 9/5).