KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Adopting A More Partisan Tone On Health Care

"In sharp contrast to how he got elected, President Barack Obama is bashing Republicans this week while urging Democrats to unite behind his effort to reform the nation's healthcare system," The Hill reports. "Months after some Democrats on and off Capitol Hill were suggesting that healthcare reform could attract 70 to 80 votes in the Senate, Obama and congressional leaders are focused on uniting their party and picking up, at most, a couple GOP defectors to help clear the 60-vote hurdle in the upper chamber."

Asking Democrats to support the Senate bill earlier this week, Obama said "Democrats, you all are thinking for yourselves. I like that in you. But it's time for us to make sure that we finish the job here. ... And we've got to be unified." The president, "who vowed to change the tone in Washington, has lashed out at Republicans this month. Speaking on Tuesday night in New York City to donors to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Obama said he didn't have sympathy for those 'sitting on the sidelines and rooting for failure'" (Youngman and Young, 10/21).

Despite Democratic control in the Senate, "Obama and Democratic leaders have modest leverage over several pivotal Senate Democrats who are more concerned about their next election or feel they have little to lose by opposing their party's hierarchy," The Associated Press reports. "These factors will limit the president's ability to play his strongest card - an appeal for party loyalty and Democratic achievement - in trying to muster the 60 votes his allies will need this fall to overcome a Republican filibuster in the 100-member Senate." The issue "could complicate the push" for a public option. "Some Senate Democrats who oppose the idea are from states that voted heavily against Obama last fall" (Babington, 10/22).

Meanwhile, "[t]he Obama administration is firing back at Congressional critics of a Web site promoting the White House's efforts to reform the health care system, rejecting complaints that it is a violation of anti-propaganda laws," Roll Call reports. "Grassley and conservatives are concerned" that an Health and Human Services website "is collecting information from users and will then be used by other executive branch offices, and they have raised questions about whether it is legal for HHS to solicit support from the public on an issue before Congress in that manner." But, "[i]n a Wednesday letter to Grassley, HHS acting General Counsel David Cade rejected those concerns, telling Grassley that HHS had reviewed 'the website and the pertinent legal authorities and confirmed that the link is entirely legal and proper'" (Stanton, 10/21).

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