Health-Care Deadline a Double-Edged Sword for Obama
By Ben Pershing
Speaking in the Rose Garden Tuesday, President Obama demanded "action over inaction" on health-care reform. But does that action have to happen by Aug. 7?
As Obama himself has said, without deadlines, "nothing gets done in this town." Absent the urgency of a defined timeframe, the House and Senate could well have punted on health care by now. But at the same time, the White House's insistence on a deadline has helped fuel the current, widespread storyline that the reform effort is struggling. Is it true that health care reform is further along on the Hill than it has been in decades? Yes, but that's not the barometer the administration has established for itself. Because Obama has imposed a deadline and stuck to it publicly, it will look like a setback for him if and when Congress fails to meet it. Obama holds a press conference tonight at 8 p.m. ET, and both foes and allies will be watching to see if he starts laying the groundwork for an extension of the deadline.
That debate over timing arises as yet another day dawns dominated by Democratic divisions on health care. The Senate Finance Committee, at least, believes it can finish a bill before Obama's deadline. In the House, Henry Waxman struck a deal Tuesday with the Blue Dogs on giving an outside panel the authority to cut government health-care costs, though Politico calls the agreement "a pint-sized breakthrough in an ocean of concern" and "a concession to one subgroup ... that's likely to inflame others." The New York Times goes big-picture, saying Obama is at a "pivotal moment," as his handling of health care "over the next several weeks could shape the rest of his presidency, shedding light on his political strength, his relationship with both parties in Congress and his appetite to fight for his own agenda." Is that all?
Posted at 8:23 AM ET on Jul 22, 2009
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