President, White House Pledge To Continue Work on Health Reform
During a town hall meeting at Lorain County Community College in Ohio on Friday, President Obama said that he will not turn his back on health care reform because of recent setbacks for Democrats, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Democrats' attempts to pass health reform legislation were hindered recently as the result of the special election of Republican Scott Brown to an open Massachusetts Senate seat, which eliminated Senate Democrats' 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority.
Obama said that the longer the reform process has taken, "the uglier [it] has looked." However, he said, "I didn't take up this issue to boost my poll numbers or score political points" (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 1/22). He added, "I am not going to walk away just because it's hard" (Fletcher, Washington Post, 1/23).
Administration Reinforces Message
Members of the Obama administration echoed the message.
Although many reform opponents have called the Massachusetts election a rejection of the overhaul by voters, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week" that the "underlying elements" of reform legislation in Congress "are popular and important." He added, "I think people want action on health care," adding that the reform package has been tainted by "insurance industry propaganda, the propaganda of the opponents and an admittedly messy process leading up to it" (Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times, 1/25).
Both White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said that the Massachusetts election would not sidetrack Obama's plans for health care reform.
However, on "Fox News Sunday," Gibbs said that the administration has been meeting with congressional leaders to decide whether to take a break from reform for a few weeks and focus on legislation that would aim to create jobs and rebuild the economy (Hooper, The Hill, 1/24).
State of the Union Shifts Focus
Administration officials on Sunday said that Obama's State of the Union address this week will shift focus from health reform to economic issues, the Boston Globe reports. However, they said that Obama during the speech will press Congress to finish reform (Wangsness, Boston Globe, 1/25).
GOP Calls for a Restart
On Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that in the wake of the special election, Democrats should start over on a health reform bill and include Republicans in developing the legislation, the New York Times reports.
McCain said Obama should adopt fundamental reform ideals championed by the GOP, such as overhauling medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing residents to purchase health insurance across state lines and granting tax credits for people who purchase insurance on their own (Berger, New York Times, 1/25).Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also called on Democrats to "start over" (Hurst, AP/Chicago Tribune, 1/25). 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.