White House Insists Bipartisan Health Care Bill Is Still a Possibility

Posted August 19, 2009 at 10:56am

Updated: 12:43 p.m.The White House on Wednesday pushed back against reports suggesting that President Barack Obama is ready to concede that he can’t get Republican votes for health care overhaul legislation, asserting that the administration still believes a bipartisan bill is possible.“We continue to be hopeful that we’ll get bipartisan support, and we’ll continue to work with those that are interested in doing that,— White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. “The president has said countless times he will work with anybody in any party who wants to work constructively on health care reform.— Gibbs directly rejected the contention in an article in Wednesday’s New York Times that said administration officials are “increasingly convinced— they will have to focus their effort solely on uniting fractious Democrats. Gibbs denied that there is even strategizing in the White House about a Democrats-only option.“There’s several more weeks to go in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats,— he said. “I don’t know why we would short-circuit that now.—Gibbs acknowledged that many Republicans have hardened their opposition to Obama’s initiative, but he contended there are still Republicans on the Finance Committee and elsewhere who want to forge a bipartisan deal with Obama.The president intends to “check in— with Finance members this week to see how they are progressing in their ongoing efforts to write a bipartisan bill, Gibbs said.But leading Republicans question how committed the White House has ever been to bipartisanship.“From day one, the White House has taken a go-it-alone approach on health care,— House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) asserted in a statement. “Months ago, Republicans sent the President a letter noting areas of potential common ground on health care reform and requesting a meeting with him to discuss a bipartisan way forward,— he added. “The Administration rejected our efforts to work together, choosing instead to craft a costly government takeover of health care and to march forward on a partisan basis solely with Democrats in Congress,— the statement continued.Senate Democrats also pushed back against the Times article, saying overcoming filibusters and any budget points of order will require 60 votes — which Democrats cannot produce alone.Though the Senate technically boasts 60 Democratic Senators, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) have been too ill in recent months to attend votes. “Circumstances alone tell you that you’re going to need at least one if not two Republicans,— said one senior Senate Democratic aide.The aide, however, said Senate leaders still plan on moving forward with their own bill if a bipartisan group of six Finance Committee members led by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) cannot produce a deal by Sept 15. However, even that scenario would include an effort to attract GOP votes once the measure hits the floor, the aide said.Gibbs said any type of effort is possible by Obama to get an agreement on the health care bill once Congress returns, including a trip by the president to Capitol Hill.“I think the president would orbit the moon if he thought it would help,— Gibbs said. But not during next week’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard — aside from possible comments in the weekly address, Obama has no plans to talk about health care.Obama today will participate in a conference call with religious leaders on health care overhaul. On Thursday, he will hold an online and telephone conference with members of Organizing for America, the Democratic National Committee’s grass-roots group backing the president. Obama on Thursday will also be interviewed by Philadelphia-based conservative radio host Michael Smerconish. The president will take callers’ questions on the show, which will be broadcast from the White House.