UPDATE: WASHINGTON (AP) — After insisting for a year that failure was not an option, President Barack Obama is now acknowledging his health care overhaul may die in Congress.
His remarks at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Thursday night sounded contradictory at times, complicating congressional leaders’ effort to revive health care legislation as Democrats hunger for guidance from the White House. Even while saying he still wanted to get the job done, Obama counseled going slow, and bowed to new political realities. Democrats no longer command a filibuster-proof Senate majority, and voters and lawmakers are far more concerned with jobs and the economy than with enacting sweeping and expensive changes to the health system.
“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,” Obama said Thursday night.
“And it may be that … if Congress decides we’re not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all 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,” the president said. “And that’s how democracy works. There will be elections coming up and they’ll be able to make a determination and register their concerns one way or the other during election time.”
It seemed to be a shift in tone for the issue Obama campaigned on and made the centerpiece of his domestic agenda last year.
“Here’s the key, is to not let the moment slip away,” Obama also said.
Raw’s original story follows.
Echoing Republican rhetoric leading up to the Senate’s passage of a health care overhaul last year, President Barack Obama told a Democratic fundraiser Thursday night “we should take our time” in approving a healthcare bill.
“[I]t may be that — you know, if Congress decides — if Congress decides we’re not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all 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,” Obama said.
The comments drew immediate concern from liberal bloggers, including Talking Points Memo and Crooks and Liars.
“It’s hard to know what to make of this,” TPM’s Brian Beutler wrote. “On the one hand: Obama says he sees a way forward, and lays it out pretty clearly. “But on the other hand… he’s pretty clearly suggesting Congress might just completely drop the ball. That could be a warning shot at Congress, or it could be an attempt to put some distance between his presidency and the potential failure of his signature initiative. Either way, it’s probably left some people on the Hill feeling disgruntled.”
“What the hell is wrong with Obama?” wrote liberal blogger Susie Madrak. “Why does he always choose accommodation over moral action? And his lack of leadership is getting downright scary. Congress is fumbling through a game of charades, trying to figure out the clues, while it becomes increasingly clear: There’s no game plan.”
Obama told donors that creating jobs was his first priority.
“As I said at the State of the Union, I think we should be very deliberate, take our time,” he said. “We’re going to be moving a jobs 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.”
Obama said letting time pass will allow “everybody to get the real facts.”
“What I’d like to do is have a meeting whereby 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 walk through them in a methodical way so that the American people can see and compare what makes the most sense,” he said.
Democrats put a massive healthcare reform package on hold after losing a key Senate seat in Massachusetts.
In November, the Senate’s top ranking Republican defended delaying passage of the healthcare bill, saying that delaying the process would help legislators better understand what they were voting on.
“I think we ought to at least have as much time for the other 99 senators and all of the American people to take a look at this bill as Majority Leader Reid has had,” Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “The only way to guarantee that for sure would be to delay the process to allow everyone to fully understand what’s in the bill.”
Democratic Congressional leadership aides could not be reached for comment.