White House Officials Preview Obama Health Care Reform Speech
White House officials used the Sunday talk shows as a preview for President Barack Obama’s Wednesday night speech on health care reform, saying he will take strands of various pieces of legislation and string them together into one proposal.Obama’s appearance before a joint session of Congress will allow the president to give the American people “a clear sense— of what health care reform will include, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod said on “Meet the Press.— But whether that bill will ultimately include a public insurance option remains up in the air, as Axelrod said Obama “believes the public option is a good tool. It shouldn’t define the whole health care debate, however.—“All the ideas are on the table,— Axelrod said. “The president will say, We agree on 80 percent of this. Let’s do the final 20 percent. Let’s get the job done.’—However, Alexrod later reaffirmed to Politico that the White House is not backing off a public insurance option.Nor is the president giving up on working with Republicans. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted that Obama remains hopeful that he can negotiate with conservatives, saying he’s not heading to Congress looking for a fight. “We’re going to talk about what we can do because we are so close to getting it done,— he said on ABC’s “This Week.”“We haven’t closed the door on Republicans,— he added.A public insurance option might close the door for most in the GOP, however, as Republicans appearing on talk shows said that to obtain bipartisan support, Obama needs to think in terms of tackling specific issues rather than trying for one comprehensive bill. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said on ABC’s “This Week— that the heated town hall meetings held throughout the August recess show that Americans view the public option as a government takeover of health care and won’t support it.“Many Americans feel that this federal government is spiraling out of control,— he said. “They want to see us take a half-step back and figure out how we can lower the cost of health care.—Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), appearing on “Fox News Sunday,— said the president must “take these things step by step— when he comes to Congress on Wednesday night.“He should say, I’m going to clear the deck. Health care is what we’re going to work on. I’m going to stay on it for as long as I need to, to get it done, and here are the four or five things that we can get done, and we can do them in a bipartisan way,’— Alexander said.But progressive Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who reaffirmed her position that she will not vote for a bill without the public insurance option, added that any hope for bipartisanship on the bill is dead.“The Republicans are not going to support a credible reform bill led by the president or the Democrats,— she said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’re not going to get their support. I appreciate the work that’s been done by the president to get a bipartisan bill, but there’s not going to be a bipartisan bill.—If talks do break down and Democrats decide to push a bill through the Senate using the reconciliation process, it “would be the same thing as going to war without Congress’ permission,— Alexander said. “You might technically be able to do it, but you pay a terrible price in the next election.—But not every Democrat was so pessimistic. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union— that she hoped some Republicans, including Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) might be able to help other Members find “common ground— in the debate.Klobuchar’s constituents at the Minnesota State Fair were telling her that any new plan should “focus on cost accountability,— which is what she said she hoped the president would cover in his upcoming speech. Obama’s speech will be a “great opportunity to put the meat on the bones— of the health care reform plan, she said.Also speaking on “State of the Union,— Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said the president’s speech Wednesday “may break the logjam— in Congress on reform.Nelson added that if health care legislation includes a public insurance option, there must be some sort of a “trigger— that kicks in after private health care isn’t able to respond adequately.