Obama Prepares For Tonight’s Primetime Address As He Pushes Reform
President Barack Obama prepares his primetime address for tonight as he ups the ante for reform. This week alone, Obama has visited two hospitals, made a trip to Cleveland for a town-hall meeting and conducted a conference call urging bloggers to motivate their followers. Such efforts come amid increasing difficulties and roadblocks set by the GOP as health care bills stall in Congress.
The Wall Street Journal reports: "President Barack Obama is significantly raising his personal stake in the effort to overhaul America's health-care system, as Democrats and the public express growing unease about the costs. After weeks of allowing allies in Congress to shape the emerging bills, the White House signaled its intention to start spending more of Mr. Obama's political capital. 'We're going to have to wade in a little deeper into the nitty-gritty to keep the process going,' White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in an interview. 'We know that and accept that.'"
The Journal reports: "On Tuesday -- exactly six months into his presidency -- Mr.Obama did just that, diving into an intraparty dispute over the cost of health-care legislation in a long meeting with conservative Democrats. And for the eighth time in nine days, the president delivered an impassioned pitch for Congress to pass an ambitious bill, urging lawmakers to 'insist that this time it will be different.' Mr. Obama plans a prime-time news conference Wednesday as well. Mr. Obama's intense personal involvement reflects the enormous political importance of the health debate. His Republican opponents are making no secret of their hope that defeating the plan would undermine the rest of the Obama agenda this year -- including his effort to enact an energy bill to combat greenhouse gases -- and would make next year's midterm election outlook far more promising for Republicans than the party expected just a few months ago."
The Journal reports: "Mr. Obama has faced criticism from some quarters for being too removed from the health debate, and he may have little choice but to get more deeply involved. Core Obama supporters still are clamoring for passage of legislation by August, and House leaders signaled yesterday that they will attempt to hold a vote there by the end of this month. Yet polls show growing doubts among Americans about the effort, and conservative Democrats in the House are pushing for more cost-containment provisions and protesting the current House plan to finance the effort with about $500 billion of taxes on the wealthy" (Meckler, Weisman, Seib, 7/22).
The Los Angeles Times reports that Obama urges action, not just politics, on health care: "Urging lawmakers to move quickly to overhaul American healthcare, President Obama on Tuesday criticized the 'politics of the moment' and said some in Congress were trying to put off decisions on legislation 'until special interests can kill it.' Speaking to reporters in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said: 'We can choose to follow that playbook again, and then we'll never get over the goal line. Or we can come together and insist that this time it will be different. We can choose action over inaction.'"
The Los Angeles Times notes: "A poll released Tuesday provided a sense of the battle Obama is facing. By 50% to 44%, Americans disapprove of how the president is handling healthcare policy, the USA Today/Gallup poll found" (Parsons, 7/22).
The Boston Globe reports that Obama will court health plan skeptics tonight. "The president's allies in Congress... want Obama to reassure the nation that the healthcare legislation will save families money, not cost them higher taxes, and that it will improve the nation's long-term economic outlook rather than add to mounting deficits. ... The political difficulty Obama and his party face is similar to the last time a major healthcare overhaul was tried, in 1993 and 1994. Then, as now, a majority of Americans already had health insurance, and they were more interested in having their costs reduced than they were in extending coverage to the uninsured, the legislation's most widely understood goal. Fast forward to 2009: Middle-class sentiment is similar, and voters again fear getting stuck with the $1 trillion tab."
According to the Globe, American's fears "are compounded by rising unemployment, escalating federal deficits, and healthcare inflation that is devouring workers' wages. Republican leaders are doing their best to stoke fears about the costs, keenly aware that after President Clinton lost his healthcare fight in 1994, the GOP made enormous gains in the midterm elections and regained control of the House for the first time in 40 years" (Wangness, 7/22).
On CBS, Obama also talked to Katie Couric about health care reform, Blue Dog Democrats and illegal immigrants (7/21).
Several news outlets report on Obama's reaction to legislative delays. The AP reports: "President Barack Obama may have to settle for a fallback strategy on health care overhaul" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/22). Meanwhile, NPR reports: "President Obama tried Tuesday to create momentum for overhauling the nation's health care system, saying Congress is closing in on a plan that will provide care to all Americans" (Tedford, 7/21).
Lastly, The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones reports that "U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Tuesday warned lawmakers about the country's fiscal problems, urging Congress to help address health-care costs as part of a long-term plan to bring down deficits. Bernanke highlighted health care as a critical issue for policymakers to tackle" (Randall and Barkley, 7/21).