President Barack Obama to pitch health care plan to public
President Barack Obama addresses students on Tuesday in Arlington, Va. He will address the nation Wednesday on health care reform. (Getty)
President Barack Obama takes his faltering health care fight before Congress on Wednesday in what is expected to be an aggressive effort to spur lawmakers to action.
“As we come down to the wire, so to speak, I think you’re going to see him be very direct with what he would like to see in the bill beyond broad principles,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, a health policy expert with the New America Foundation. “He views this as the right time to cut through some of the rhetoric.”
Obama will answer “many of the big questions” on how to proceed, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. Gibbs declined, however, to provide details on what the president might discuss.
After an August of raucous town halls and general confusion over the overhaul’s many possible components, Congress returns from recess with four health care bills. A fifth, to be produced by the Senate Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six,” is still under construction, but chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday presented a $900 billion bipartisan deal to his Republican counterparts.
Under Baucus’ proposal, Americans who don’t get health insurance once the system is overhauled would be fined up to $3,800. His plan does not include a government-sponsored public option but rather a network of nonprofit cooperatives.
Whether Obama on Wednesday brings up the public option, one of the original pillars of his reform plan, remains to be seen, experts said Tuesday.
“He’s probably going to lay out what he wants, how people have been trying to stop it in a very ridiculous way,” said Democratic consultant Joseph Mercurio, of National Political Services Inc. “He’s probably going to point to the benefits and show how none of the negatives are going to be the case.”
The timing and content of tonight’s speech are crucial, Mercurio said, calling it a “planned communications campaign.”
Rep. Charles Boustany, of Lafayette, La., is slated to deliver the GOP rebuttal to Obama’s national speech. Another Louisianan, Gov. Bobby Jindal, gave the Republican response to the president’s February address but was widely panned.