As President Obama prepares to address the nation in a primetime news conference, some sources say Democratic grumbling about his plan for health care is growing louder.
One Democratic senator told CNN that some congressional Democrats are “baffled,” and another senior Democratic source told CNN that those members are frustrated that that they’re not getting more specific direction from him on health care. “We appreciate the rhetoric and his willingness to ratchet up the pressure but what most Democrats on the Hill are looking for is for the president to weigh in and make decisions on outstanding issues,” the senior Democratic congressional source said. “Instead of sending out his people and saying the president isn’t ruling anything out, members would like a little bit of clarity on what he would support — especially on how to pay for his health reform bill,” the source added. The Democratic leadership had hoped the work going on behind closed doors for months could bear fruit in time for the president’s news conference Wednesday night. But multiple Democratic sources told CNN that’s looking very unlikely, and one senior Democratic source said some Democratic leaders are frustrated that Senate negotiators have, “repeatedly missed deadlines.” The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats said Tuesday night that they reached one breakthrough on controlling the cost of health care at a meeting with Obama, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and other House Democrats.
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Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross, D-Arkansas, told reporters after the meeting that the group came to a “verbal agreement,” to add a “some type of hybrid of an independent Medicare advisory council ” that would set reimbursement rates for health care providers to the House Democrats’ bill. He referred to the agreement as a “breakthrough.” But Ross cautioned it was only one of 10 items that the Blue Dogs wanted changed. He predicted Obama would talk about the idea at his news conference on Wednesday night, and credited the president with pushing for it when he first talked about health care reform. Ross said that opposition from committee chairs kept it out of the House Democrats’ bill. Despite the progress on that major issue, Ross emphasized that Blue Dogs still want more structural changes to the House Democrats’ health care bill. “One of the things that we’d like to see is a House bill that is more closely aligned with what the Senate Finance Committee is likely to do,” Ross said. Obama had set a deadline for passage of a bill before the August congressional recess, but in an interview Monday with PBS’ Jim Lehrer, the president said that if Congress tells him it’s “going to spill over by a few days or a week,” that’s fine. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer signaled Tuesday that the House could leave for its month-long break in August without voting on health care reform. “If we can get consensus, we’re going to move. If we can’t get consensus we’re going to continue to work on creating consensus,” Hoyer told reporters. He added that he doesn’t think it is “necessarily necessary” for the House to stay in session into August to continue working on health care legislation. His words were in contrast to those of Waxman a week ago, when House Democrats unveiled their version of the health care bill before sending it to three committees for consideration. “We quite frankly cannot go home for a recess,” said Waxman, chairman of one of those committees, “unless the House and Senate both pass bills to reform and restructure our health care system.” Hoyer said Democrats still want to pass a bill next week and will continue to discuss changes to the proposal. “We’ll see,” he said. “I’ll make that decision next week, I’m not going to make it now.” The majority leader also conceded that concerns about the House bill are not limited to a group of conservative Blue Dog Democrats who have publicly stated their opposition to the bill. “It’s not just Blue Dogs. I want to make it very clear — progressives, Blue Dogs and everybody in between has expressed concerns, and we’re working on that,” Hoyer said. iReport.com: Share your view on health care reform Obama on Tuesday responded to Republican opposition to Democrats’ health care plans, saying that political motives are behind efforts to block progress on the issue.
Republicans “who openly announce their intentions to block this reform” would “rather score political points” than confront the ailing health care system, Obama said in a Rose Garden statement. Republicans responded that Democratic proposals so far would fail to deliver what they promise and eventually lead to a government takeover of health care.