A ‘Humbled’ Obama to Keep Pushing on Health Care Reform

Posted September 20, 2009 at 11:37am

President Barack Obama acknowledged Sunday that he has had a difficult time selling his health care reform plan but that he will continue trying because “it’s important for the country.—Asked on ABC’s “This Week— whether he’s had a moment during his eight months in office where he realized he needed to “step up his game,— Obama said the health care debate has been one such instance.“That’s been a case where I have been humbled,— the president said. “I just keep trying because I do think it’s important for the country.—But he said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) assertion that Republicans are “winning the argument— was not accurate.“Well, you know, they — they were saying they were winning during the election, too,— Obama said.During his five-show media blitz, Obama declined to pick favorites among the five health care bills in Congress but appeared largely supportive of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) deficit-neutral plan, which is set to be marked up in committee on Tuesday.However, Obama did not endorse the Baucus bill, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union,— “It does meet some broad goals that all the bills that have been introduced meet.—Obama echoed the concerns of some Senate Democrats who have complained that the measure does not adequately ensure that health insurance will be affordable for middle-income families.“That’s a concern I share, making sure this is affordable,— he said on ABC. He added, “The effort by the Senate Finance Committee is a serious, strong effort.— But he gave the Baucus bill another slight boost, by reiterating that having a public health insurance plan is not a “silver bullet.— The Baucus plan would create a network of nonprofit health insurance cooperatives, a proposal rejected by many liberals as not robust enough to provide the kind of competition needed against private insurers.Obama noted that there were strong signs that at least one panel Republican — Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) — would sign on to a bill eventually. The White House has been courting Snowe in recent weeks by entertaining her idea to create a public health insurance plan as a fallback if private insurers cannot lower costs and increase coverage. However, that idea of a public option “trigger— is not included in any of the plans currently on Capitol Hill.Obama defended his push for a mandate that all Americans carry health insurance as ensuring that everyone takes personal responsibility, and he rejected the notion that it might be considered a tax increase. He also vowed that cutting hundreds of billions from Medicare would not result in diminished care for America’s senior citizens.Obama did endorse Baucus’ push to have a citizen verification system in the health care bill to ensure that illegal immigrants cannot take advantage of new health care programs.“There should be a verification mechanism in place,— Obama said on CNN. “We do that for a whole range of existing social programs. And I think that’s a pretty straightforward principle that will be met.—Obama made another push for civility in the national conversation on health care, rejecting claims by former President Jimmy Carter that racism was behind most of the attacks.Obama said “the biggest driver of some of the vitriol— against him and his plans is a fear of big government, not the fact that he is nation’s first black president.