White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday said President Barack Obama continues to seek a broad health care reform bill in the wake of the GOP victory in the Massachusetts Senate contest. But he acknowledged that the legislation played a part in the Democratic loss and cautioned that the way forward on health care reform is still being determined.Gibbs denied that he was trying to reel back a statement Obama made in an interview with ABC News scheduled for broadcast Wednesday night in which the president appeared to suggest focusing on a narrower bill. The concern is a narrow bill addresses a narrow group of concerns yet doesnt make progress on all of the issues that we talked about, Gibbs said. The president believes that we have to address this issue broadly.In the interview, Obama said, I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on.Obama also said the Senate should not act on health care without Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown. The Senate certainly shouldnt try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated, he said.Gibbs tacitly acknowledged that the result of Tuesdays election had set back the timetable for action, saying Obama believes we can and should get health care reform done this year. Just last week, it seemed Congress might be days away from finishing the bill.Gibbs sought to deflect blame from Obama for the GOP win in Massachusetts. The frustration didnt start last week, Gibbs said. The frustration didnt start last month.But he indicated that the president shares blame for the loss. The president was not expecting to lose that Senate race, Gibbs said. Everybody bears some responsibility, certainly including the White House.Gibbs made the case that the health bill was only part of the reason Attorney General Martha Coakley was defeated.I dont want to boil it down to one thing or one issue, he said. I think thats to oversimplify a lot of different factors that go into how people make voting decisions and the outcomes of elections.Gibbs said Obama will address the Massachusetts election in his State of the Union address Jan. 27.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.