California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Meets With Lawmakers To Push for Action on Health Reform

On Monday, President Obama met with committee chairs and caucus leaders to discuss the prospects for passing health care reform legislation by the August recess, CQ Today reports.

Meeting attendees included:

  • House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.);
  • Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.);
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.);
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); and
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Among the issues discussed at the meeting were funding mechanisms for health care reform legislation, according to Baucus (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 7/13).

Reid said, "We'd like to see these bills on the floor in July" (Holland/Alexander, Reuters, 7/13). He added, "We're going to do health care before we leave here."

Pelosi said, "We're still on schedule," adding, "We have plans to vote for this legislation before we leave for the August recess" (Youngman/Young, The Hill, 7/13).

Eyes on the Senate

After the meeting, Rangel said that Obama wanted "assurances ... that the Senate will mark up a bill next week." According to Rangel, during the meeting Baucus promised that his committee would mark up its legislation next week.

A Baucus spokesperson would not comment on Rangel's statement (CQ Today, 7/13).

Baucus said that Obama told meeting attendees that "we got to move and he's going to help" (Budoff Brown et al., Politico, 7/13).

According to the Washington Post, Senate leaders came under criticism for falling behind on their schedule, potentially making it difficult to meet Obama's deadline for floor action on reform bills by the August recess.

Two Democratic sources said that Obama told Senate leaders that he expects the Senate Finance Committee to begin action next week, the Post reports (Connolly, Washington Post, 7/14).

Baucus said, "I got the sense that the urgency barometer is going up."

Administration Comments

The White House sought to minimize the importance of the meeting.

Administration officials did not publicly announce the meeting beforehand.

Afterward, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs attempted to offset intimations that Obama is concerned with the pace at which reform legislation is moving. Gibbs said, "There's a lot of legislative nitty-gritty that's going to be handled out in the next three or four weeks, but I think the president sees good progress" (CQ Today, 7/13).

Gibbs also suggested that Obama might ask lawmakers to delay their August recess in order to complete work on health care reform legislation. He said, "I'm sure the president will encourage them to continue to stay and do what needs to be done in order to have that happen, understanding, again, that this is a big priority of the president" (Politico, 7/13).

Blue Dog Meeting

On Monday, Obama also met separately with several members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, Politico reports. The meeting included Blue Dog leaders Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) and Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and members Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah).

According to Politico, Obama asserted the consequences if health reform legislation is not passed this year. In addition, he emphasized that savings from reform could come after the 10-year window on which most Congressional Budget Office scores have focused, according to a White House aide (Politico, 7/13).

Obama Comments

During a ceremony announcing the nomination of Regina Benjamin as surgeon general on Monday, Obama commented about health care reform.

The president said, "I just want to put everybody on notice because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone," adding, "We are going to get this done" (Stolberg/Pear, New York Times, 7/14).

Obama added, "Even though we're close, I have no illusions that it's going to be tough to get over the finish line" (Youngman, The Hill, 7/13). He said, "If we step back from this challenge right now, we will leave our children a legacy of debt, a future of crushing costs that bankrupt our families, our businesses and, because we will have done nothing to bring down the costs of Medicare and Medicaid, will crush our government" (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 7/13).

Obama said, "We are going to get this done. Inaction is not an option," adding, "For those naysayers and cynics who think that this is not going to happen, don't bet against us" (Condon, CongressDaily, 7/13). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.