Jarrett to NABJ: White House bracing for health care decision
June 23rd, 2012
07:59 PM ET
11 years ago

Jarrett to NABJ: White House bracing for health care decision

New Orleans (CNN) - As the Supreme Court prepares to make a historic ruling on the fate of President Barack Obama's health care law, his top adviser shifted attention on the rest of the White House's legislative agenda rather than the potential dismantling of its signature piece of legislation.

Valerie Jarrett, Obama's senior adviser and close family friend, told a group of black journalists Saturday that the administration is prepared for the court's decision – which could come as early as Monday – then went on to attack Republicans in Congress for what she called a strategy of "no."

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"The Affordable Care Act is a very important piece of legislation that we spent a great deal of time crafting," Jarrett told CNN, but, pointing to legislation on fair pay for women, tax cuts for working families and college tax breaks, added, "he had a lot more going on than the Affordable Care Act."

Still, she admitted that the administration was out-maneuvered by Republicans in the months following the law's passage, as the other side turned up the drumbeat to repeal what they called "Obamacare."

"The opponents of it out-organized – in terms of the 'death panels' - and distorted what we were doing early on."

She then lashed out at what she called the "obstructionist" GOP members in Congress.

"It's been very disappointing that the Republicans in Congress put politics ahead of the economy," she said. "Their strategy has been to say 'no,' even to the detriment of the American people."

She added: "I think, given how obstructionist the Republicans in Congress were, the president accomplished an enormous amount."

Jarrett, in New Orleans to address the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, spoke for about an hour on a wide range of issues, from health care and immigration to gay marriage and the state of political discourse in the country. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, campaign advisers and GOP representatives were also invited to speak at the event, but declined repeated requests, according to event organizers.

Jarrett reflected on her lowest personal moment working at the White House.

"The lowest low I can tell you was the debt-ceiling debacle (of 2011). It was the time that really crystallized to me that the Republicans were willing to just run the car right off the cliff."

On the president's recent announcement of his support for gay marriage, Jarrett pushed back against criticism that the timing of the decision was less about the issue and more about pure politics.

"He made the decision when he was comfortable making the decision. It was a very personal decision. He couldn't accelerate that process any faster than he did. This was not something he was doing for politically opportunistic reasons," she said.

On Obama's clearly frustrated reaction to being interrupted by a conservative reporter during his White House remarks on immigration, Jarret said, "He's human."

"Does he get frustrated from time to time? Of course he does. He's human. Does he let that frustration linger? He can't afford to. He's president of the United States. He's got to get back to work."

On the current level of political discourse in the country, she pointed to the conversations happening on the internet.

"There is a coarseness to the dialogue, generally," she said. "Look no further than the comments section online to see how coarse our dialogue is getting towards one another."

Jarrett, who is widely seen as Obama's closest adviser and who has known the first couple for more than 20 years – she was even the first to 'vet' Obama when he and Michelle first started dating – said she has no desire to run for elected office, even though she considered a Senate seat after Obama's election in 2008.

"I don't have that appetite, I really don't," she said. "It doesn't get any better than what I'm doing now. Being in the White House is just the most extraordinary experience of my life. It's a good note to end my public service."

Filed under: 2012 • Louisiana • President Obama • Valerie Jarrett
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Paulie

    If Obamacare is upheld it will be DEVASTATING to the economy as people who are unemployed/underemployed and have no insurance yet for financial reasons scramble to figure out where they are going to get the money to pay for mandatory insurance every month. Many will give up going out to restaurants (thus hurting owners, food distributors, waiters and waitresses and bartenders). Many will shop less at the local supermarket. Many will forgo the trip to the local salon. Many will give up gym memberships. Some will turn off their cell phones. Some will turn off the cable television. Some will travel less and buy less gasoline. Having less income on hand will affect every single american and maybe force some businesses to shutter at the worst possible time. Some will just go into debt with the IRS every year.

    June 24, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  2. GG

    First, I find it racist that there are engagements for all "black" journalist as this story states. I can see the uproar over a engagement for all "white" journalist. Second, as a independent I do not feel that the health care vote was done correctly or with much vetting from all perspectives. It was fast tracked and voted on before most folks even read it as Nancy Pelosi stated. Clearly, this law is flawed and the proof is in the huge number of groups/people that get to be exempts from following the rule of the law that was passed. This was clearly a Democratic pushed bill that was passed strictly on party lines. In my opinion, it should be overturned on many levels.

    June 24, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  3. Winston Stanley

    Valerie Jarett appears to be a very sincere lady. Is this the woman with a golf game I'm hearing?

    June 24, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  4. acdc2

    There is nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act. The government can do nothing that doesn't cost more than it was originally meant to be. Something does need to be done about health care in this country, but Obamacare is not the way to fix it. As a conservative, what really urks me is that all of the sudden when Obama comes out with this health care, the republicans talk about fixing the problem. If they take over Congress and the White House in November, they had better step up to the plate and do something with this country, not only with Obamacare, and not just talk about it. If the dems have their chance who knows what the future holds.

    June 24, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
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