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. jen

    Keep working hard President Obama, we applaud you, we support you all the way – may God bless you!

    September 2, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. Obama Victim

    although I disapprove of Barry's very existence...........I welcome his forcing this through all by himself................it will mark the end of the Democrat party.............and I think we will all be greateful for that

    September 2, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Jane/Seattle

    This is an action he needs to have already taken. Obama is up against some highly seasoned hatemongers, unethical, immoral, sociopathic liars and political operatives. I know he has some very good folks, too. This Tea Party, Town Hall, talk of militias stuff has been allowed to get way too far without intervention. Many would try to say that this is a grassroots movement by "the people", but those of us who are serious political students KNOW that it is the "Neo"Con"/Republican appeal to the loudest and most ignorant of their factions who are whipping up this frenzy! These folks blindly follow the leaders (???) right off any cliff they refuse to see before them! There are many Biblical references to such blind behavior. One says to the followers, paraphrased: A wise man seeth the folly and changes course while a foolish man goes on to his destruction. Another one: Follow NO man, etc. I am no bandwagon voter. I find all of those in politics to be suspect with some notable exceptions who are fighting against all odds to save America from the "Shock Doctors" (Naomi Klein). Wake-Up, America!

    September 2, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. Mike in MN

    This could be a moment of truth for Obama. Be specific, but don't lose the support of either the liberal left of his party or the Blue Dog right of his party.
    Be careful what you say Obama. The liberal left knows you have always been a liberal. But you owe your election victory as do the Blue Dogs to independents who you conviced you were a centerist. You can't really be both. Independents already are droping support because of your precieved move to the left.
    It never pays to pretend to be something you are not because once exposed all trust is lost. Everything you say after that will be examined as a possible lie.
    So by all means, finally get specific and show your true colors Obama.

    September 2, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. Dean

    It's about time he took charge on this issue. I'm sick of hearing all the lies and distortion the GOP and all their wingnut followers are saying.
    Lets get the program going and now.

    September 2, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. victim of republican greed

    He needs to listen to Democrats and ignore the lunatic right wingnuts.

    September 2, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    No public option = No health care reform.

    This conservative Independent will support President Obama for the Public Option.

    September 2, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. Loup Garou 782

    obama thaking control, like he took control o Wall street, Banking industry, auto industry, now he is looking to control air waves and health care.
    But, after all he did promise "CHAINS YOU CAN BELIEVE IN" and he "hopes" you will embrace the gifts.

    September 2, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  9. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    It is not only morally right but also fiscally correct to include the Public Option in the reform bill. President Obama needs to veto any bill without a Public Option.

    September 2, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. Willy Brown

    Obama=socialist

    September 2, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. Alan

    Go Obama. You can out-debate ANYONE on this issue. Give us your clear vision.

    For the REST of you - what's been proposed is no more "socialistic" or a "government takeover of healthcare" than our police, fire, highways, roads, street signs or medicare and social security.

    YES WE CAN!

    September 2, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. LacrosseMom

    Good for you, Mr. President. You must lead, you must be the "plow" that strong arms healthcare reform through Congress!

    EVERY DAY Americans declare bankruptcy because of the high cost of healthcare reform!

    Healthcare should not be a privilege...... it IS a RIGHT!

    To the "Blue Dog" Democrats: Support President Obama or prepare to be voted OUT of office in 2010!

    September 2, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    The time has come for President Obama to declare that he will veto any health care reform bill without a Public Option. His strategy is effective in giving everyone time and an opportunity to consider options for reform.

    September 2, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. ran

    Good. I hope he tells the GOP: "you want your for profit insurance you better get on board and work with me and the Democrats or we will jump to a universal non-profit health care now.

    when all is said and done universal non-profit is the only way to provide health care in this country. At some point even the GOP will see this.

    September 2, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. Ryan Indy

    Put a fork in him he is done on Health Care. The democrats tried to Rush this thru before the American People could learn more about the Bill and once they have , they have Rejected it. Sorry Dems the American people are not as dumb as you think they are.

    September 2, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. victim of republican greed

    The biggest threat to the republican party is not socialism, it is education. Educated people can see through their lies and hate.

    September 2, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. smokey

    I think it would beneficial for everyone if Pres Obama states out once again very clearly what he wants in the bill ..Not simply what he would like, or what would be good, but what he wants..( not what the GOP hypocrites want)..This way the Amercian people can feel confident that Pres Obama is fighting on their side and fighting for their needs, and not willing to compromise on key issues such as the public option..I think unfortuanlty by the GOP getting out of the gate first with all their myths and untruths, we have been playing catch up, and this is where the message got lost..Its time for the Pres to take hard stand and say what exactly he wants in the bill not if and buts about it, and the time for bipartisanship is over...Time to move and get the job done..We have wasted enough time on this issue....Thanks PRES OBAMA FOR ONCE AGAIN KEEPING YOUR PROMISES

    September 2, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    He abandoned his leadership role when he turned this over to Congress in the first place. he did it before with the stimulus. Seen any of those 3 million new jobs yet?

    September 2, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. Nancy - Houston

    I don't understand what the yelling is all about as far as the cost of healthcare reform. I thought one of the purposes of healthcare reform is to bring costs down from what they are presently. Medicare fraud runs in the millions of dollars. If just that can be prevented, it will pay for a large chunk of the cost of healthcare reform. But the cost of what we have now is too expensive and getting more so, and that cannot continue. Giving the insurance companies some competition should help that situation a great deal.

    September 2, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    Americans have gone to great lengths to respond to what was presented. We do not always come together so effectively to say the same thing, but this time it was loud and clear. We do not want the public option. I look forward to seeing if the administration was listening.

    September 2, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  21. Lillian, CA

    No matter when the reform is, there will always be opposing forces. Stop those interest groups that dictate our medical system; stop those who resist changes.

    September 2, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  22. Carl Justus

    The far right who is owned by the lobbyist will do they can to defeat health care reform so money keeps coming into the pockets of those who have hired them, which in turns goes into their pockets.

    They have bought most of the republican for the republicans have never heard of a dollar they did not want regardless if hurt the poor. In fact they want to hurt the middle class so they will beg to work for less than minimum wage so the rich can put more into off shore banks so they do not have to pay income tax on the ill gotten gains.

    September 2, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  23. Deuce

    With his Two fishes and five loafer's..

    September 2, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. Bj

    What a fool

    September 2, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  25. kay

    Don't get the health care reform....what is there to "get"??? If we keep insurance companies, in the mix....costs will always be prohibitive. If we do real tort reform,,,again, insurance companies will not reduce the premiums....greed, greedier, greediest....

    Maybe we should all be analyzing BIA Health Care and VA Health care...it makes more sense to me, for the government to be more invested with health care than auto or hedge fund businesses....

    Oh and by the way, let's be inclusive and include congress in our policy...no opt outs....and by the way, I like my health insurance just fine.

    September 2, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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