President Obama sent Democrats mixed signals about how to move forward on ahead health care reform during a question and answer session organized by Democracy for America. While he argued that the “key [is] to not let the moment slip away,” Obama did not pressure the House to accept the Senate health care bill or echo House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) call for the Senate to pass a package of ‘fixes’ through reconciliation:
The next step, is what I announced at the State of the Union, which is to call on our Republican friends to present their ideas. What I’d like to do is to have a meeting where I’m sitting with the Republicans, sitting with the Democrats, sitting with health care experts and let’s just go through these bills. Their ideas, our ideas. Let’s just walk through them in a methodical way…and then we’ve got to move forward on a vote. We’ve got to move forward on a vote…We should be very deliberate, take our time. We’re going to be moving a job package forward over the next several weeks. That’s the thing that’s most urgent right now in the minds of Americans all across the country…That’s why I think it’s very important for us to have a methodical open process over the next several weeks, and then let’s go ahead and make a decision. And it may be that, you know, if Congress decides, if Congress decides we are not going to do it even after all the facts are laid out and all of the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not.
Roll Call reported this morning that Democrats still can’t agree on how to proceed with health care reform. “Reid appears to be trying to get Senate Democrats to move forward with a health reconciliation package to accommodate the House, but Members want him to move more quickly.” Pelosi is asking the Senate to pass a package of fixes through the reconciliation process that would scale down the “Cadillac” tax on high cost plans, “add as much as $50 billion to increase subsidies to buy health insurance and even more money to close gaps in Medicare prescription drug coverage” before the House passes the Senate legislation.
Meanwhile, POLITICO has identified “at least 10 senators who have said they are opposed to reconciliation or have expressed strong reservations. Reid can only afford to lose nine senators and still pass a bill.”
POLITICO is reporting that following Obama’s question and answer session with Democrats on Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) criticized David Axelrod for not doing more “to chart a course for getting a health care bill to the president’s desk.” “There was a lot of frustration in there,” said a Democratic senator who declined to be identified. “People were hot,” another Democratic senator said.