Obama Pledges More Involvement in Health Care Effort

Posted January 5, 2010 at 9:21pm

President Barack Obama on Tuesday vowed to boost the White House’s involvement in health care reform negotiations as the House and Senate seek to craft a final bill that can pass Congress this winter.

During a meeting of Congressional leaders and the White House Tuesday evening, one senior Democratic source said Obama also offered to be more involved in aiding Congressional leaders in setting the legislative agenda in this crucial election year.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) attended the meeting in person, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) participated by phone.

Another meeting between Obama and Congressional leaders is likely this week — possibly Wednesday, the source said.

The promised White House involvement in refereeing health care disagreements between the chambers as well as in other policy priorities was greeted warmly by Democratic leaders, who had been eager for more White House support during the course of the past year. House and Senate Democratic leaders struggled in recent months to clear health reform bills in their respective chambers, and are now eyeing February as the month to get a bill to Obama’s desk.

Obama has largely shied away from taking firm policy positions — on health care, in particular — leaving it up to Democrats in Congress to hammer it out.

“Everyone has been waiting for the White House to step up,— the source said.

A White House official indicated the president was satisfied with Tuesday’s meeting.

“The President and the leaders had a productive discussion about the path forward as they move toward enactment of historic health insurance reform legislation,— the official said.

In the meantime, House, Senate and White House staff are expected to meet throughout this week and next to resolve differences.