September 2nd, 2009
02:59 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama aiming to seize control of health care debate, aides say

President Obama faces wavering support on health care reform, key White House aides told CNN.
President Obama faces wavering support on health care reform, key White House aides told CNN.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama, facing wavering support on health care reform, is considering a range of options to recapture momentum on his signature domestic initiative, key White House aides told CNN Wednesday.

"The president is considering all of his options on how to advance the debate and get reform passed. This includes possibly laying out a more
specific vision," said one administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Among other things, Obama is contemplating giving a major speech detailing specifics on what he would like to see included in a health care
reform bill, added senior adviser David Axelrod.

It's unclear what form a possible speech by the president would take. If he decides to give an address, he could do it from the Oval Office or before a joint session of Congress.


No decisions have been made yet, the official emphasized.

So far, Obama has outlined broad principles for what he would like in health care reform, but he has left most details to leaders in Congress. Now, White House aides say, the dynamic has changed.

"We're entering a new season," Axelrod said. "It's time to synthesize and harmonize these strands and get this done."

The new phase is being "driven in part by the actions of some in the GOP, including Senators Grassley and Enzi," the administration official noted.

The official added, the White House believes those actions indicate that the two key Republicans - Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who are part of a bipartisan group negotiating a health care bill - "are essentially walking away from the table."

The official said that "now is the time to begin to pull together the various strands and solutions from the four bills that have been marked up and other proposals... basically all the cards are on the table."

A statement Wednesday to CNN by Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny criticized complaints about the senator's role in the health care negotiations as unhelpful.

"Attacks by political operatives in the White House undermine bipartisan efforts and drive senators away from the table," the statement said. "Anyone who's been working on an alternative plan - one that would actually drive down costs and not drive up the deficit - knows how difficult the issues are, and that Democratic senators involved in trying to work through the details have as many questions about how proposals would actually achieve reform goals as Republicans."

The statement called Democratic proposals before the House and Senate "policy failures" that it contended were "rejected at the grass roots." It
reiterated that the goal of Grassley's negotiations with five other members of the Senate Finance Committee - three Democrats and two Republicans, including Enzi - was "to see if it's possible to develop an alternative that would improve the system and, as a result, get widespread support."

A separate statement to CNN by Enzi's communications director, Craig Orfield, insisted that the senator's opposition to Democratic health care proposals was consistent.

"Repeating that you don't agree with plans put together solely by one side doesn't mean you aren't willing to work together on a different plan,"

Orfield's statement said. "He is. He has been doing that."

However, Grassley, Enzi and other Republicans in both the House and Senate appear unanimous in opposing a government-funded public health insurance option proposed by Democrats, as well the broad scope and cost of Democratic proposals so far. In addition, some moderate Senate Democrats also worry about the cost of a health care overhaul and say the public option lacks enough votes to pass the Senate.

The compromise agreement being negotiated by Grassley and the other Finance Committee members has dropped the public option, proposing instead the creation of not-for-profit health insurance collectives that could negotiate collective coverage for members.

Obama and Democratic leaders argue that a public option would ensure that coverage is available to all Americans, while forcing private insurers to lower costs through competition.

Republicans reject the concept, saying the public option would drive private insurers out of the market. Republican leaders repeatedly call the
public option a first step toward a government takeover of health care, a claim derided by Democrats as deliberately misleading.

Uncertainty over the political viability of the public option has some House Democrats refusing to rule out the possibility of a final bill without
the provision.

On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland reiterated his support for a public option, but when asked by CNN if House
Democrats would turn their backs on a final bill without it, he said: "I hope that's not the case."

His statement differed from comments by some other Democratic leaders, who call the public option essential for any health care legislation. For example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last month that there was "no way" she could pass a bill in the chamber without a public option.

Hoyer represents a conservative district that voted strongly in favor of Republican presidential candidate John McCain in last year's election.

He also is considered the strongest ally among House Democratic leaders of the chamber's fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, some of whom have objected to House health care proposals so far.

As momentum for health care reform has slowed, Obama has come under growing pressure from liberal activists and leading congressional Democrats to provide more specifics.

"I think the president needs to step forward," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Tuesday. "Be more specific, more aggressively fight for a strong health reform bill with a strong public option. I think he's going to do that."

–CNN's Ted Barrett and Brianna Keilar contributed to this story


Filed under: Health care
soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. Truth Teller

    It's about time.

    September 2, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. W. Axl Rose

    He's "aiming to seize control" of everything, hence the plummeting approval numbers.

    September 2, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. Kevin in Ohio

    He needs to LISTEN to all sides, not just his lunatic far-left fringe friends. We need tort reform. We need portability. We need viability of existing plans so I won't be forced in to a single payer plan down the road. We need to cover American citizens and LEGAL immigrants ONLY.

    September 2, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    He's trying to seize control of healthcare PERIOD. That's what marxist do.

    September 2, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. tidho

    Pull hte public option and it can be done. That's his decision. If his priority is a progressive agenda he'll fail. If its an improved healthcare system he'll succeed.
    Politically he won't survive this if (like Pelosi) he's focused on the means to an end, rather than achieving the actual end.

    September 2, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  6. It's About Time

    Our President and the Democratic Senate and Congress were elected overwhelmingly by the American people. This overwhelming response was to send a clear message that the vast majority of us know that this system is broken and needs to be fixed. We want it done. President Obama needs to have a private meeting with the Democratic Caucus, sending them a clear message to GET IT DONE!

    The Republicans have been given ample opportunity to join in the debate and have chosen to take that opportunity only to delay and eventually defeat the reform. The President now needs to bypass the Republicans altogether. Let the Democrats pass the bill and take the glory when it is complete and people are happy, just as they are now with the Medicare and Social Security programs that Republicans also tried to defeat.

    September 2, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. Reagan was wrong

    GOOD. God knows he tried the bipartisan route, but you just simply can't deal with people who aren't willing to deal. But, knowing the GOP base's selective memory, I'm sure we'll keep hearing crap like "So much for bipartisanship" or "Another broken promise by Obama."

    As we saw throughout the month of August, facts have NO EFFECT on the GOP; they will unquestioningly believe whatever Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck say without any evidence whatsoever.

    It's time to jettison the GOP altogether. You can't possibly teach math to someone who's convinced that 2+2 = 5.

    September 2, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. IndyVoter

    While I am always happy to hear what our President has to say, I wish someone would remind Congress and educate Americans that it is CONGRESS's responsibility to write the laws of the land...NOT the President. His role according to the constitution is to advise the Congress as to what the American people want but beyond that its Congress's job to do it. They are always screaming about the President having too much power and yelling that the Congress is CO-EQUAL with the President. But when it comes to the HARD WORK of creating controversial legislation, they try to push it off on the President to try to cover their butts. DO YOUR JOB CONGRESS and get a good health care bill done!!!

    September 2, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. elliott

    too late.....Osama has lost control of everything.....and he's on the run...

    September 2, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  10. Joe

    like his predicessor, Obama reacts slowly. at least this one thinks during the lull.

    September 2, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  11. Nothing 'Stand Up' about Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)

    The Republicans and others of the Reckless Right failed to turn the American people against health care reform after their month-long media blitz.

    Now it's time for real leaders to step up and give us the change that they know we need and that we told them we want in the last election!

    September 2, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. Julie

    To do nothing is not an option. We don't want to be left in the hands of the for-profit healthcare industry who raise our premiums, cut levels of service, and cancel policies at will. When forced to, these companies will compete. They aren't going to give up their lucrative "cash cows" and go out of business. It's called adapting to COMPETITION, which is the hallmark of the free market system. Just remember, as we age, we will all have some form of "pre-existing condition" that they will be able to cancel your policy over. Instead of just yelling and screaming, we need to give our lawmakers some actual ideas, ones that take into consideration the complex nature of healthcare and our diverse population and their healthcare needs. The time is now or we will all be priced out of healthcare.

    September 2, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. Dorothy

    I don't know what people their polling but president OBAMA has done a good job thus far and as for health care please get it done I'm tired of not having health coverage, the Replubilacns never haved back anything that will help the average American so get it done without them. PLEASE PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 2, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  14. Frank

    I wonder what those hypocrites like Pat Robertson and the other self righteous religious right wing nuts feel about health care reform. Didn’t Jesus speak about helping the poor?

    September 2, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  15. Jay

    The Obama administration is destroying the United States of America. The members of the CIA work to protect us. Now the Obama administration wants to convict them. We do not want government run healthcare. He needs to concentrate on the economy and the war and leave our CIA and healthcare alone. We need to replace the liberals in Congress as soon as possible.

    September 2, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. achap

    can we please get this IDIOT out of office before he completely destroys this Great Nation. Wake up people, he is selling us out. Praising Islam as a great nation, this health care plan, wanting to get into the minds of our children, I could go on and on, you get the picture, This is an evil evil person, I can't even call him a man, He needs to be impeached ASAP, we need to take America back from the likes of Him, that idiot Pelosi and so on and so on!!!!!!!!

    September 2, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  17. Paul from Phoenix

    How about this, there are about 20 million uninsured who would like some care (this is the real number, when you take out illegals, people in between jobs, and those who don't want healthcare).

    How about the government start by introducing a program to satisfy that group. Why do they have to screw with everyone's program? My company offers a great plan, but if this bill passes, we have already been told our program will end, and we will be moved to the government program.

    I want to keep my program.

    September 2, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  18. Cee

    "things he would like to see included in health care reform"
    WHAT ABOUT WHAT THE LEGAL TAX PAYING AMERICAN CITIZEN'S WANT? HUH ?

    DON'T WE TAXPAYER'S HAVE ANY SAY?

    ARN'T WE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY FOR THIS FOREVER?

    I THOUGHT WE ( the people) ELECTED A PRESIDENT – NOT A DICTATOR OR KING OR SOVERIEGN HUH?

    WHAT'S GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY ANYWAY?

    ARE WE (the people) CRAZY or JUST SHEEP?

    September 2, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. PULEEEZZZ!! lets tell some truth

    Maybe we can get our Democracy back, after all, if the corporations let go of their determination to keep the USA slaves to their profit making.

    September 2, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. dan

    Specifics on how the plan would work would be a good thing. Of course Obama will give a speech to try to get it back on track. Giving speeches is the one thing he does well, reading from a teleprompter.

    September 2, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. steve b in CA

    seize control should have happened about 6 weeks ago
    what is being spun here is, Obama is trying to save a failing proposal

    September 2, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. Farrell in Houston

    I would like to hear from big insurance companies that they will not raise their rates and hear Republicans say they will not be paid off or help insurance lobbyist.

    September 2, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. Aaron

    I believe that President Obama will win this battle to pass healthcare reform. He is organized and well equiped with the tools needed to do the job. Furthermore, President Obama and reform advocates are well armed with the facts about healthcare reform unlike their opponents. Despite all of the stupid talk about socialism, death pannels and other nonsense, H.R. 3200 with a robust public option will become law!!

    September 2, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. bill

    no thanks on social medicine, no thanks to cap and trade, no thanks to any of this left wing agenda.

    hey any of you libs know Van Jones? maybe you should take a gander at what he thinks/says. As an example.... " white polluters and white environmentalists are steering poisons into colored communities"

    by the way, he is Obama's "Green Jobs Czar"

    This guy is a nut job and also claims to be a communist

    September 2, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. Fan of Common Sense

    Yeah, if he ever gets done vacationing.......on the taxpayers' dime.

    September 2, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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