Expectations High For Obama’s ‘Major Address’ To Congress On Health Reform
President Obama plans to address Congress on Wednesday, only a day after lawmakers return from their August break, to spell out in detail his vision for overhauling health care, The Associated Press reports. The move signals that "Democrats have all but given up hope for a bipartisan breakthrough by Senate Finance Committee negotiators," because that committee the only one seeking across-the-aisle compromise had been given a Sept. 15 deadline. Democrats have long pressed the president to offer a more specific plan, and the timing immediately after the recess may help "buck up" those supporters and dispel any advantage opponents gained during the recess (Babington, 9/3).
However, "officials said Mr. Obama was unlikely to unveil a detailed legislative plan of his own. And they insisted that Mr. Obama had not given up on the provision that has attracted the most fire from the right, a proposal for a government-run competitor to private insurers," The New York Times reports. The speech will likely target the moderate Democrats who may defect from the party and oppose the plan (Pear and Calmes, 9/2).
The Los Angeles Times reports that aides have talked it up as the most detailed plan yet. "I think the path that he believes we should go [in] will be clear to everyone who hears this speech," said David Axelrod, a senior adviser.
But, expectations for what those details may include are all over the map:
For instance, the LA Times reports that Ralph Neas, who runs a union, health and medical coalition that supports health reform said, "President Obama must become the salesman-in-chief" to regain the political momentum. "The most ambitious and important legislation in 45 years compels such a massive presidential effort" (Nicholas and Hook, 9/3).
McClatchy: "Obama's role next Wednesday will be to 'come to the Capitol and talk to those who support health care' and tell them 'it's time to move forward,' said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., an assistant to the speaker. It may not be time yet for the president to spell out details of what he would accept, Van Hollen said, but 'he will get involved in greater measure' during the fall" (Thomma and Lightman, 9/2).
CQ Politics: "President Obama has to step up and sort of tell the American people, 'Here's what we need to do. Here's what we should do. Here's what the health plan should encompass and here's what I think we should fight for,'" Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said (Bettelheim, 9/2).
Politico: The content of Obama's presentation is still being debated in the West Wing. Aides have discussed whether to stick to broad principles, or to send specific legislative language to Capitol Hill. Some hybrid is likely, the officials said (Allen, 9/2).