White House Refines Health Reform Message
As the White House declines direct comment on pending health care reform bills in Congress, President Obama is readying his message ahead of his second town hall meeting in as many weeks, Roll Call reports.
The White House's avoidance of comment is a "policy of non-interference" being used by the White House, according to Roll Call, in hopes that it "will help staffers complete work on legislation in the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees."
Also, the president's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, refused to discuss Obama's campaign pledge to not tax health care benefits or the possibility of using reconciliation to pass a reform package. "Gibbs also sought to explain the frustration that Obama expressed last week with Congressional Budget Office scoring of the health bill. Gibbs said it was not impatience with CBO itself, but rather unhappiness that CBO's mission does not allow it to incorporate certain health system savings that Obama believes would eventually save on government spending and reduce the cost of the legislation" (Koffler, 6/30).
People are increasingly taking to the Internet and bypassing the White House in discussing reform, CongressDaily reports. "But influential physicians, health IT vendors, insurers and patients have bypassed the White House to take the debate over health care reform to other Web sites. Popular interactive sites include Patients.net, which advocates patients empower themselves by becoming more informed about their illnesses; The Health Care Blog, where well-known health care experts post opinion pieces; and Fix Health Care Policy, a site supported by the conservative policy think tank the Heritage Foundation" (Sternstein, 7/1).
The National Journal reports that the notion that Obama is hanging his popularity and presidential latitude on reform is overblown: "But those who observe the current push for health care reform and see déjà vu all over again for a young Democratic president may be overlooking some important inconsistencies in the parallel. Lawmakers are still trying to find common ground on the shape of the legislation, but polls show public support remains squarely behind health care reform, and there are now 60 Democrats in the Senate, many of whom campaigned on passing it. No matter the bill's final language, the bottom line is unchanged: Congress will almost certainly pass some sort of bill, and Obama will almost certainly sign it" (Herbert, 7/1).
Obama also is preparing for his town hall meeting at the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. Wednesday, where he will take questions from the public via the Internet, USA Today reports (Jackson, 6/29).
The White House, however, will be choosing the online questions for the president to answer, Politico reports: "In March, the White House designated questions through an online voting process. When users flooded the site with support for questions about marijuana legalization, it put White House aides in an awkward position. In the end, a drug-related (question) was asked and Obama laughed it off" (Parnes, 7/1).
Voters remain split on Obama and congressional Democrats' reform proposal, according to a separate story by Politico, which quotes a new Rasmussen Reports poll: "The survey found 50 percent of U.S. voters at least somewhat favor the Democrats' health care reform plan, while 45 percent are at least somewhat opposed" (Allen 6/30).