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. Dale

    Detail the healthcare plan, get it passed and be done with it rather than fiddling around with it trying to get bi partisan support. Don't the naysaysaers know that no one is turned away at the emergency room anyway. Don't they know that the taxpayers pick up emergency rooms tabs when the patient can't pay for it. Also, none of the rick people are going to pick fruits and vegetables. They just want to get rich off immigrant labor with the insurance companies getting richer.

    September 2, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. keep up the good work mr. pres

    we support you and think you are doing a great job

    September 2, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. oops

    the mesiah is going to lose this battle. he ought to stiick his tail between his legs and call this one dead. there is no way for him to win unless of course he tries to cheat and slip it through congress on the 51 vote deal. if he does this...you can bet your behind he will lose in 2012....which he probably will anyway....

    September 2, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Jason

    Its about time he's steps up and fights for what this country deserves. Obama should have done this from the beginning.

    September 2, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  5. worriedmom

    You would have thought that he would have laid out a clear vision when first proposed. Now I don't believe anything he will say because he is a salesman and will say or do anything to make that final sale. He had the chance, he blew it, no i take that back, he didnt realize that people are fed up with his outrageous spending of OUR money! You Liberals want a total overhaul of health reform, why don't each one of you sponsor someone who doesn't have health insurance and pay their insurance.... How many Liberals would sign up??????

    September 2, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. mjm

    Obama aiming to seize control of health care.

    That's more accurate.

    How 'bout we hold off until after 2010. See who's left in congress. IF the Dems survive, you can have your public option....for 1.7 trillion.

    Something tells me we'll have a Republican majority back in no time.

    September 2, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. Melly

    I agree with Sen. Sherrod Brown from Ohio...Pres Obama needs to be more specific and more aggressive with his fight for a strong health reform bill. He needs to get in the publics face and explain things as only he can do. Let them know exactly what his plan calls for and also how we will pay for it. So many people believe the lies that have been told by Grassely and there seems to have been no real fight back from the WH. Also, let AARP get the message out to the seniors more....Seniors will believe one of their own hopefully.

    September 2, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  8. Axl in Iowa

    Yeah right. The "Socialist Health Care" move is done for.

    Unless of course, the Democrat dictators in congress shove it down our throats. Just like the stimulus that 80% of Americans opposed.

    That's OK though, Their days left in office are numbered. And it will all be repealed.

    September 2, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Presidnt Obama and the Democrat need to call for a reconciliation vote now or soon a possible and pass The Health Care Plan. It seem like when the republican party don't have nothing better on the table they will vote against anything

    September 2, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  10. Joe in NJ

    "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"

    Shouldn't he have had a more specific vision in the first place? If so, then maybe we wouldn't have this debacle.

    September 2, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. Susan in Sunnyvale, CA

    I hope this time he looks inside to find the Obama we voted into office–that's the president we want to hear.

    September 2, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. Sam Sixpack

    How much you want to bet he doesn't say anything about his proposed "Independent Medicare Advisory Council?"

    It hasn’t been slipped into the bill – yet. You can, however, read the language of the proposed legislation on the White House's website.

    The Independent Medicare Advisory Council will decide who does and doesn't get treatment in our healthcare of the future.

    Perhaps Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Obama's Special Advisor for Health Policy, summarized it best when he wrote, "services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

    September 2, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Susan Simon

    Health care was President Obama's signature issue during the campaign and it is fitting that he finally lead the charge to get this thing done. It's clear the republicans are going to throw up road blocks at every turn, so democrats should remember why they got elected...to change and fix. If we wanted more of the same, we could have sent John McCain to the white house. It's time the democrats practiced a little "tough love" on their opponents, because the republicans are not going to go gently into the night. Significant health care reform is what we need, and health care reform is what the president should deliver. He should continue to be out there selling the plan, but it should be his plan he's selling, and not Congress'.

    September 2, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. Red Ink Express

    He cannot regain momentum on health care reform since no one has actually proposed health care reform. All the proposals so far have been about increasing government control and taxing out the wazoo to pay for it.

    The country is OUT OF MONEY. Just how is a Government that can't control spending supposed to afford covering everyone's medical bills?

    September 2, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. Idiot_Pelosi

    OBUMMER is incompetent.

    And people thought BUSH was dumb. We now have the ignorant fool.

    September 2, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. vick

    let do this!!!!!!! we need it

    September 2, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. Dean

    One thing is for sure, Obama will do nothing to impede the ability of lawyers from profiting in medical lawsuits not to mention the drug companies.

    September 2, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Steve

    Give it up already, the American people don't want your government run plans.

    September 2, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Jack in Florida

    Health care reform is needed and needed now. Barack MUST clearly articulate in plain english his plan, so that the right wing nut jobs cannot misintrepet them and spread false, wild and insane rumors.

    September 2, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. Pepou

    It's about time. Go for it Barack, you have our support.

    September 2, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. GM from MN

    The only word that matters ...is the last word.

    REFORM NOW!!

    September 2, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. Jimmy the Greek

    Hey OBAMA... consider THIS:

    Americans want REFORM... not a government TAKEOVER!

    Reform means:

    Interstate Competition
    Tort Reform
    Individuals able to participate in industry co-ops to get better prices

    Reform DOESN'T mean:

    Government Option

    September 2, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. Bpin

    He is aiming too, but this single poorly managed health care event has cost him dearly. He would be better off at this point waiting for the flames to die down a bit before he causes himself more harm.

    September 2, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. DawnL,CA

    It's about time Pres. Obama took control of the healthcare bill. He never should have handed it over to congress in the first place. He should have put HIS healthcare bill in front of congress & let them argue over it. Putting anything in the hands of Pelosi & Reed doomed it from the start.
    The Pres. needs to outline what he wants & what he would take. The lies from the Repubs. should be addressed immediately & the facts stated. As far as the Rep. statement of "socialism", don't they realize that Medicare, Medicaid,Social security, Schip, are all government run?
    I would like to ask the Pres. about his campaign promise that Americans should have the same healthcare as members of Congress. What happened to that?

    September 2, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  25. JA/TN

    President Obama should take a note from Bush 43 and just steamroll his policy, don't the democrats hold a majority on capital hill

    September 2, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
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