President Calls for Televised Bipartisan Health Care Forum
In a live interview with CBS News' Katie Couric during the Superbowl Pre-game telecast on Sunday, President Obama announced that he would convene a public meeting on Feb. 25 with Republican and Democratic leaders to reach a bipartisan consensus on the bill, the New York Times reports (Zeleny, New York Times, 2/8).
The meeting is expected to take place at Blair House and be broadcast live on C-SPAN.
A White House official familiar with the planning of the half-day meeting said the meeting is intended to draw more Republican input into the legislation (Budoff Brown/Allen, Politico, 2/7).
However, Obama reiterated that he does not intend to restart the reform debate from the beginning.
White House officials said that Obama would attend the meeting with a merged version of the two bills, which Democrats in both chambers passed last year with very limited supported from Republicans, the reports.
"This is not starting over," a White House official said, adding, "Don't make any mistake about that. We are coming with our plan. [The Republicans] can bring their own plan" (Shear, Washington Post, 2/8).
Obama told Couric that said he wants to "look at the Republican ideas that are out there," adding, "If we can go, step by step, through a series of these issue and arrive at some agreements, then, procedurally, there's no reason why we can't do it a lot faster [than] the process took last year" (Politico, 2/7).
GOP Leaders Warm To Meeting Proposal
The Congressional Republican leadership on Sunday welcomed Obama's meeting proposal but called on the president to discard the two existing bills and restart the process.
Obama and other White House officials have roundly rejected that idea (Washington Post, 2/8).
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "Obviously, I am pleased that the White House finally seems interested in a real, bipartisan conversation on health care," adding, "The problem with the Democrats' health care bills is not that the American people don't understand them," but it is that "they don't like them" (Politico, 2/7).
In a separate statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "[W]e know there are a number of issues with bipartisan support that we can start with when the [two bills are] put on the shelf" (New York Times, 2/8).
Obama Reiterates Support for Health Reform at DNC Meeting
Meanwhile, during a speech at the Democratic National Committee's annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Obama renewed his commitment to overhaul the U.S. health care system and he pledged to develop a strategy to get reform legislation passed this year, the New York Times reports.
He said, "Just in case there's any confusion out there, I am not going to walk away from health care reform," adding, I'm not going to walk away on this challenge â¦ We're moving forward" (Zeleny, New York Times, 2/7).
According to the Los Angeles Times, the speech was "part pep talk and part prescription" for how the part needs to face challenges in the coming years, particularly following the Democrats' loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate last month.
Obama said that scaling back on goals and delaying the hard choices would be the wrong approach for Democrats to take (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 2/7).
However, Obama did not specify any new strategies that his administration was considering to advance health reform and other items on his agenda (New York Times, 2/7).
He said, "Yes, we could continue to ignore the growing burden of the runaway cost of health care" and the "easiest thing to do right now would be to just say, 'Ah, this is too hard. Let's just regroup and lick our wounds and try to hang on,'" adding, "But â¦ [i]f we walk away, we know what will happen. We know that premiums and out-of-pocket expenses will skyrocket this decade and the decade after that, and the decade after that" (Los Angeles Times, 2/7).
Opinion Piece Calls for Cohesive Approach to Health Reform
If Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress "want to pass a [health reform] bill this year, they can start by agreeing on a list of changes to reassure worried voters that their voices have been heard," Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus writes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would "have to persuade their fractious Democratic caucuses to walk in step" and they would "need more help from Obama to do that," according to McManus.He adds, "Unless Democrats agree on a strategy soon, the more likely scenario is a months-long deadlock between the Senate and House that will end by giving Democrats in the House a choice they will find unpalatable: Either pass the Senate bill many of them dislike, or allow health care reform to die." He concludes, "There are only a few narrow pathways to passing a bill, and a dozen different ways to fail" (McManus, Los Angeles Times, 2/8). 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.