Obama may detail health plans soon
President Barack Obama, faced with falling approval ratings and increasingly impatient with Senate negotiations over health care, is weighing a shift in strategy that would offer more details of his goals for overhauling the nation's health care ...
President Barack Obama, faced with falling approval ratings and increasingly impatient with Senate negotiations over health care, is weighing a shift in strategy that would offer more details of his goals for overhauling the nation's health care system.
The president is considering a speech in the next week or so in which he would be "more prescriptive" about what he feels Congress must include in a bill, top adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday in an interview. The speech might occur before the Sept. 15 deadline the White House gave to Senate negotiators to seek a bipartisan bill, Axelrod said. He suggested that two key Republicans have not bargained in good faith.
Congress reconvenes next Tuesday after an August recess in which critics of Obama's health proposals dominated many public forums.
Some Obama allies, watching his approval ratings tumble in polls along with support for a health care overhaul, have urged the president to take a more hands-on approach. They feel he gave too much leeway to Congress, where one bill has passed three House committees, another has passed a Senate committee and a third has been bogged down in protracted negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee.
Axelrod indicated that Obama would not offer new proposals but would be more specific about his top priorities.
"The ideas are all there on the table," Axelrod said. "Now we are in a new phase, and it's time to pull the strands of these together."
He said there is serious discussion in the White House of Obama "giving a speech that lays out in specific ways what he thinks" about the essential elements of a health care bill.
Axelrod said it was possible that the speech could occur before a planned Sept. 15 Obama address on health care in Pittsburgh.
Obama has called for innovations such as a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers, but he has not insisted on it. It was not clear Tuesday the degree to which he might press for various proposals in a new speech.
Obama also plans to meet with Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday.
Axelrod condemned recent comments by two chief Senate Republican negotiators -- Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming -- who have sharply criticized key elements of Democrats' health care plans even as they insisted that a workable bipartisan plan was possible.
Their remarks, Axelrod said, "were not exactly consistent with good-faith negotiations."
In an August fundraising letter, Grassley asked people for "support in helping me defeat Obamacare." He said Democratic-drafted bills would be "a pathway to a government takeover of the health care system."
Enzi, in a radio address Saturday, said Democratic proposals would restrict medical choices and make the country's "finances sicker without saving you money."
The two men are part of a six-senator, bipartisan negotiating team that also includes GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. Hopes for a workable bipartisan plan have dimmed in recent weeks, and Axelrod's comments were the most dismissive yet from a White House official.
Congress' August recess was brutal for Obama and his allies, as lawmakers faced raucous crowds denouncing Democrats' health proposals. When Congress reconvenes Tuesday, Democratic leaders hope to change the dynamic by holding quiet, closed-door sessions with nervous colleagues and arguing that farreaching health care changes can be good politics as well as good policy.