Washington (CNN) – White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that Democrats are within striking distance of passing a health care reform bill notwithstanding Democrats’ loss of their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate.
“We’re still inside the five-yard line,” Gibbs said Sunday on State of the Union when asked to assess Democrats’ progress on health care reform, the domestic agenda item that was President Obama’s top priority last year along with getting the struggling economy back on track.
Gibbs was reacting to an earlier assessment on the same subject provided by another top Obama aide before Sen.-elect Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, pulled off an upset win earlier this month in a special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.
“We’re way deep in the red zone,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King late last year on State of the Union. “We’re right on the one-yard line,” Axelrod added.
Despite the setback in Massachusetts, Gibbs said Sunday that a bill could still be passed.
“We’re one vote in the House of Representatives from making health care reform a reality,” the White House press secretary said, positing a scenario where the House passed the version of the bill already passed by the Senate which President Obama would then sign into law.
Gibbs suggested Sunday that Brown’s upset win was a message from voters in a historically Democratic state that they wanted more bipartisanship in Washington.
“I think, once again, the American people are far ahead of where Washington is,” Gibbs told King. “I think we can get something done for the American people if we sit down and listen to each other, if we share ideas and we work together on the priorities of the American people.”
Gibbs was noncommittal when asked by King whether the president preferred having the House pass the single large bill already passed by the Senate or he was considering several smaller bills on issues where there might be bipartisan agreement.
“I don’t think we know yet the answer on the process of this,” said Gibbs.