Los Angeles Times
Healthcare reform tops agenda for Obama’s prime-time news conference
The president will keep up the pressure for swift action from Congress despite complaints that he is moving too fast.
By Mark Silva and Christi Parsons
11:39 AM PDT, July 22, 2009
Reporting from Washington — President Obama, attempting to “keep the pressure on” Congress for swift action on healthcare reform this summer, will take his case to the public tonight with a prime-time televised news conference at the White House.
Yet, even as the president presses his case, the summer calendar could be working against the deadline that the president has set for the Democratic-run Congress. With House leaders hoping to take a plan to a vote by the end of July, the best that Senate leaders may achieve is a conceptual bipartisan agreement on their own measure before leaving for the August recess…
The president’s pitch at 5 p.m. PDT, to be carried live by broadcast and cable news networks, will serve as a crescendo of direct personal appeals to the public, with Obama also sitting for interviews this week with the major networks.
“I want to keep the pressure on, because we’re making steady progress,” Obama told Katie Couric in an interview on the ” CBS Evening News.”
A Gallup Poll released today shows that one in six Americans — 16% — say they have no health insurance. This matches official estimates of some 47 million uninsured Americans.
It’s imperative that Congress be given a deadline for action on health legislation, the president said in another interview with NBC News this week, because it will not act without one. The default position in Washington is inertia, the president suggested.
Yet, with conservative members of the president’s own party questioning the costs and taxes involved in various proposals and Republican leaders intent on blocking any bill that raises taxes and increases the government’s hand in control of healthcare, even some of Obama’s allies are voicing concern over the pace of the debate.
“No one wants to tell the speaker [ Nancy Pelosi] that she’s moving too fast and they damn sure don’t want to tell the president,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a key committee chairman, told a fellow lawmaker as they headed into a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, a remark overheard by reporters.
Food for Thought While You Watch The News Conference. Swallow with Kool Aid.
In Obama’s interview with Couric, the CBS newswoman said “surely you don’t want to ram something through,” and reminded him that it took President Johnson a year and a half to get Medicare enacted.
Obama replied: “We’ve been talking about this for four years. We’ve been studying this ad infinitum.”
“Starting in November, after my election, a lot of members of Congress — including the chairman of the [Senate] Finance Committee, Max Baucus — started meeting and working through ideas,” said Obama, referring to the Democrat from Montana. “So we’ve actually been working on this for a good solid nine months now.”
Obama expressed confidence that a bill can be approved, adding that “I want the American people to understand I have no interest in creating a bad bill. That doesn’t serve me. And it certainly doesn’t serve the American people.”
The president has underscored the urgency of acting soon in a series of appearances last week and this week.
Speaking to reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, Obama said: “I understand that some will try to delay action until the special interests can kill it, while others will simply focus on scoring political points. We’ve done that before. And we can choose to follow that playbook again, and then we’ll never get over the goal line. . . . Or we can come together and insist that this time it will be different. We can choose action over inaction.”
The remarks were part of a White House blitz to promote the president’s healthcare agenda this week, a strategy that also includes television interviews and a Thursday town hall in Cleveland.
A poll released Tuesday provided a sense of the battle Obama is facing. By 50% to 44%, Americans disapprove of how the president is handling healthcare policy, the USA Today/Gallup poll found.