While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that the House has the votes to pass the Senate health care bill if the Senate first approves a package of changes through the reconciliation process, the White House is suggesting that the President will refrain from calling Congress into action during tonight’s State of the Union address. According to reports, Obama will reaffirm his commitment to a comprehensive bill without laying out a roadmap for how to pass the legislation.
But since Congress is so close to passing reform, Obama’s endorsement of the effort is a step backward. As the process of reform has moved forward, Obama’s rhetoric has remained in campaign mode, without a clear path forward. In tonight’s address, Obama must call on Congress to pass the Senate bill, alongside a reconciliation package of fixes, and reclaim the urgency that characterized his address in September. During that speech, Obama said, “I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last” and reminded lawmakers that it is “[o]ur collective failure to meet this challenge — year after year, decade after decade — has led us to the breaking point“:
Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to deliver on health care. [...]
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. (Applause.) I won’t stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out. (Applause.) And I will not — and I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it the most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true. That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed — the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town halls, in e-mails, and in letters.
Congressional leaders, health policy experts and progressive advocates have called on Democrats to quickly pass a comprehensive health care reform bill. Tonight, it’s the President’s turn to rush our lawmakers into action.