President Urges Senate Democrats To ‘Finish the Job’ on Health Reform
At a Senate Democratic Conference meeting on Wednesday, President Obama told lawmakers to "finish the job" on health care reform, The Hill reports.
The president acknowledged that many Senate Democrats have concerned constituents and as a result are facing difficult re-election bids, but said that "as we think about moving forward, I hope we don't lose sight about why we're here" (Fabian/Romm, The Hill, 2/3).
Obama told lawmakers that if they pass health care reform and other initiatives they will have a better chance at re-election (Zeleny, New York Times, 2/4).
Obama said that senators should tell voters honestly that some problems will take time to solve, defend health care reform without getting stuck on confusing or overwhelming minutiae, point out when Republicans stall worthwhile legislative efforts and stop paying attention to media coverage that emphasizes politics (Feller, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4).
The president also called for continuing the legislative process on health care reform with as much transparency as possible, saying Democrats had made a mistake by not always publicizing the negotiations on the House and Senate reform bills (HR 3962, HR 3590). He said that "some of that transparency got lost" by the end of the process, adding, "I think [Democrats] paid a price for that."
In addition, Obama told lawmakers not to be concerned about the recent special election of Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown (Mass.), which ended the Democrats' 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority. He said, "[We] went from having the largest Senate majority in a generation to having the second-largest," adding, "If anyone is searching for an answer to the lessons of Massachusetts, I promise you, it's not to do nothing. ... We still have to lead" (Fabion/Romm, The Hill, 2/3).
Push for Bipartisan Negotiations
Obama also reiterated his willingness to engage in bipartisan negotiations on health reform legislation, the Washington Post reports. He made similar comments last week at the House Republican issues conference in Baltimore (Murray/Kane, Washington Post, 2/4).
Obama said that some of the process of developing reform legislation already has been bipartisan because many GOP amendments were included in the Senate reform bill.
However, Obama said the GOP often has refused Democratic input and Democrats can only extend so far to invite bipartisan discussion. He said Democrats sometimes "extend a hand and get a fist in return" (Hunter, CQ Today, 2/3).
Difficult Questions Asked After Obama, Media Left
According to The Hill, many Senate Democrats only asked difficult questions regarding health care reform legislation after Obama and television cameras left the conference. Lawmakers expressed frustration with White House officials over the lack of a clear plan for moving forward toward passage of an overhaul.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) called the discussion "vigorous" and said Democrats waited until Obama left because they "didn't want to put him on the spot" on live national television (Bolton, The Hill, 2/3).
Obama Supports Reconciliation, Congressional Staffers Say
According to Politico's "Live Pulse," two congressional staffers have said that the Obama administration privately is endorsing the option of passing reform legislation via reconciliation.The strategy likely would consist of the House passing the Senate reform bill, with fixes made by the Senate through reconciliation (Frates, "Live Pulse," Politico, 2/3). 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.