Mr. Obama Battles Toward Health Care Reform: News Conference
President Obama is holding a prime time news conference on Wednesday, July 22, to discuss the health care reform directly with the American public in order to garner their support and Congress.
Some excerpts of the President's opening remarks during tonight's news conference:
That is why I’ve said that even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.
This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
So let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.
President Barack Obama is facing one of his biggest tests to translate personal popularity into a successful legislative agenda, the health care reform. Even when the the bill has passed the committee, skepticism from both sides of the aisle is mounting on Capitol Hill over the cost and effectiveness of the President's reform.
The President has attempted to infuse a sense of bipartisanship since March, which has dissipated due to some missteps that turned into a standoff on Capitol Hill. The debates have been about how to expand and improve health coverage while having enough funds to pay for these plans.
A group of Democrats elected in recent years from some of the country's richest congressional districts have emerged as a stumbling block to raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for President Barack Obama's ambitious health-care overhaul just as the plan has begun to meet increasing resistance over its cost
Two freshmen representatives -- Dina Titus, from suburban Las Vegas, and Colorado's Jared Polis, representing Boulder, Vail and some of the tonier suburbs of Denver -- joined Republicans to vote against Mr. Obama's top-priority health-care overhaul when it faced a vote in their House Education and Labor Committee on Friday.
Strong Democratic majorities, especially in the House, give the White House plenty of latitude. But if wary freshmen team with the more seasoned centrists in the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat coalition, who are threatening the health bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the coalition could be formidable.
The bottom line is the inevitable tax, which has invariably presented a challenge to many new Democrats as they struggle for political footing. Nervous Democrats who are running for re-election are increasingly resistant to the President's health care plan and tax increases.
Further, independent voters are increasingly impatient and unhappy with President Obama's health care reform as reflected by the new Associated Press-Gfk poll showing 47 percent of disapproval, an increase of 17% in three months since April.
But confidence in his approach is slipping. Independents, middle-of-the-roaders who were vital for Obama's election, are increasingly skeptical. Forty-seven percent disapprove of how he is handling health care, up from 30 percent in April, the AP poll shows.
Health care reform proposal has also dominated the annual governors' meeting in Washington D.C. Both Republican and Democratic governors spent most of their time to criticize the Obama health care reform.
The tax issue is presenting many new Democrats with a quandary as they struggle to get their political footing. "These members are going to have to make their own determinations on how to balance these interests," said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and himself a representative of the affluent suburbs of Washington.
Some Democrats under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-California) have bravely announced that they have the votes on the floor of the House to pass this legislation, however, in reality, Ms. Pelosi has not scheduled the vote.
"I have no question we have the votes on the floor of the House to pass this legislation," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday. But she hasn't scheduled a vote.
What has gone wrong?
The long-standing quest to provide health insurance for all Americans has never been easy because this plan invariably means raising taxes and an increasingly expanding the role of the federal government.
Former President Bill Clinton and Mrs. Hillary Clinton did not succeed due to the lack of consultation with Congress and outside representatives. Fast forward to the current administration, where President Obama has added the challenging goal of taming medical costs.
It is a credit to President Obama who has taken a bipartisan and humbler path, by setting a specific tone, insofar as to provide Congressional leaders to work out the details. In other words, President Obama wants to give everyone an ownership stake in the health care reform.
Obama was going to take a humbler path, but one that he hoped ultimately would reach the goal. His strategy was to set the tone, paint the big picture and let seasoned leaders in Congress work out the details.
While the President has noble goals and aims, but he has also allowed the Democrats too much latitude to make policy decision and political strategies whose actions have run counter to the President's bipartisan goals.
Obama - like a modern-day father with a somewhat dysfunctional family - has tried to encourage, not criticize. With Congress, that doesn't seem to be working.
It is evident that the President has not anticipated the deep ideological divisions on health care within his party, the opposition, and the American public.
In the House, liberal committee chairmen drafted a bill that doesn't even represent a consensus of their own members, moderates and conservatives whose votes they need to pass it on the floor. In the Senate, Democrats headed off in different directions. One group produced a partisan bill; another keeps searching for a compromise with Republicans.
Therefore, President Obama has decided that tonight's prime time news conference would give him a direct route to talk with the American public and to present his updates.
The President did not take as many questions as expected, but spent most of his allotted time to discuss details about the health care reform. In fact, he answered only ten questions.
At the conclusion of his press conference, interestingly, Ms. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times asked President Obama about the incident that involved Professor Henry Louis (Skip) Gates, Jr., Harvard University, and the Boston police department.