Obama Highlights GOP Reform Supporters; Capitol Hill Battle Grinds On
President Barack Obama praised health reform efforts in Congress in his weekly Saturday address, highlighting support from some Republicans who have spoken out recently on the issue, a scheduled vote in the Senate Finance Committee and a Congressional Budget Office report that found the Finance bill would not add to the deficit, the Wall Street Journal reports. Obama called a group of Republicans who voiced support for reform "distinguished leaders" and called on lawmakers to "finish the job" (Burns, 10/10).
By the week's end, ABC News reports, the list of Republicans who had voiced reform support included: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican who is now officially an Independent; two former Senate majority leaders, Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Dr. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Dr. Louis Sullivan, who was President George H.W. Bush's secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Tommy Thompson, who was President George W. Bush's secretary of HHS. "On Saturday," ABC reported, "the White House added former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and surgeons general from both Bush administrations, Dr. Antonia Novello and Dr. Richard Carmona (Tapper, 10/10).
It's unclear whether all the supportive comments will have any effect on Republicans in Congress who oppose the overhaul measures, NPR reports. "It's like endorsements in a congressional race: They're usually overrated," said one Republican lawmaker. "They'll always go after people to try to get support, and we expect that, but I can't see it affecting many votes here." Also, Republicans note, some of the statements of support are vague. They did not necessarily call for lawmakers to support specific proposals only health reform in general (Seabrook, 10/11).
Administration officials told the New York Times that the president was pursuing public opinion because it's directly tied to the back-room deal-making needed to push legislation through Congress. "You have to have a base level of support in the country to get this through Congress, so you have to do both together," a spokesman said. But, the next major step for health reformers must take place within the "grinding legislative process." The bills need to be consolidated once they make their way out of the committees, before the administration can tout the reform effort more aggressively, experts say. Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, told the Times, "This is a quest for public opinion, just like an election, only at this point, the public can't quite figure out who the candidates are" (Seelye, 10/10).