Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will push for a health care plan with a public option that states can opt out of if they choose.
Reid said the compromise will hopefully get support from liberals who want the government to compete with insurers to lower costs and conservatives who do not want the government to provide health care. Their states can opt out.
The public option is “not a silver bullet” but will ensure healthy competition and a more level playing field for consumers, Reid said on Capitol Hill. Polls show that a wide majority of Americans support a public option, he said.
Reid’s health care bill, which will be given a cost assessment by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, also includes a provision from the Finance Committee bill allowing for the creation of nonprofit health care cooperatives that would negotiate collective insurance coverage for members.
Reid hopes his compromise will appeal both to liberal senators insisting on a public option and to conservatives wary of a government-run plan, several Democratic sources said.
The sources said Reid does not have firm commitments for the compromise from 60 senators, the number required to break a Republican-led filibuster.
Maybe Rep. Joe Wilson’s apology for calling President Obama a liar on national TV didn’t feel that sincere, but President Obama accepted it anyway. Obama, choosing to focus on getting a health care reform bill passed by Congress, said that he was pleased that Wilson, an avowed anti-Obamaist, had apologized “quickly and without equivocation.” It was during the president’s address to the joint session of Congress that Wilson shouted “You Lie!” as Obama explained that his proposal would not cover those in the United States illegally. Even members of Wilson’s own Republican Party expressed embarrassment over the outburst, and several of them prompted the four-term South Carolina representative to say he was sorry. “This evening I let my emotions get the best of me,” he said in a statement. “While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.” But then, a seemingly not-so-sorry Wilson noted that his comments were “spontaneous.” Offered Wilson, “It was when he (Obama) stated, as he did, about not (health care insurance) not covering illegal aliens … We need to discuss the issues and I’m happy to do that.” But Obama chose to focus on health care, saying, “We all make mistakes.” The president’s decision to let the matter go is perhaps what led to fellow Democrats in Congress dropping the issue. “It’s time for us to talk about health care, not Mr. Wilson,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. It remains to be seen whether his “spontaneous” remarks will cost him politically. Already, his Web site crashed, following the quip, and both Republicans and Democrats Twittered him to a pulp about what they deemed objectionable behavior. “I was embarrassed for the chamber and a Congress I love,” Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It demeaned the institution.”
Sensing that his health care message is being muddled amidst a deluge of conservative misinformation, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress to try and get the upper hand in the increasingly contentious debate. The Sept. 9, address will mark the second time that the president has spoken directly to the full Legislature since taking office nearly eight months ago. With indications that Obama’s momentum on the issue has begun to slow as conservative commentators have blasted away at Democratic proposals, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invited Obama to make the address. The president is scheduled to meet with the two congressional leaders at the White House next week to discuss the speech, CNN reports. Many Democrats have pressed Obama to lay out his own detailed plan, following a series of noisy, disruptive and often unintelligible debates at town hall meetings across the nation. “The president is clearly not running away from this battle but rather confronting the challenges we’ve encountered these last few weeks head-on,” Democratic Sen. Charles Rangel of New York said in a statement Wednesday night. “He’s pulling out all the stops, and this level of involvement from the president could well be a game-changer. There is no better way to turn public opinion around than to have someone as popular as President Obama addressing the American people directly, without intermediaries interpreting – or misinterpreting – his ideas.” David Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser, said that the dynamic of the debate has changed, providing an opportunity for Obama to step in and gain control of the issue. “We’re entering a new season,” Axelrod said. “It’s time to synthesize and harmonize these strands and get this done.”
The national Republican Party has mailed a fundraising appeal suggesting Democrats might use an overhaul of the health care system to deny medical treatment to Republicans, The Associated Press reports. A questionnaire accompanying the appeal says the government could check voting registration records, “prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system.” It asks, “Does this possibility concern you?” Katie Wright, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the question was “inartfully worded.” But she said people should worry because government officials would have access to personal financial and medical data. “The RNC doesn’t try to scare people,” said Wright. “We’re just trying to get the facts out on health care. And that’s what we do every day.” Jon Vogel, executive director of the Democratic House campaign organization, called the GOP letter “shameless fear-mongering.” In a fundraising e-mail of his own seeking to raise $100,000 by Aug. 31, Vogel wrote the Republican accusation was “just a preview of the falsehoods, fabrications and outright lies Republicans will be pushing when Congress returns in September.” The allegation is the latest instance in which some critics of the health care effort have made inflammatory unfounded claims — such as conservatives who claimed the legislation would create “death panels” that they said could lead to euthanizing elderly people. The suggestion that Republicans might not receive care is included in a “Future of American Health Care Survey” containing 13 questions, most of which are critical of the Democratic health care effort. The technique, referred to as a “push poll,” is used often in political campaigns by both parties and is designed to spread negative information, not to sample public opinion. Another question asks, “Do you believe it is justified to ration health care regardless of whether an individual has contributed to the cost of the treatment?” The survey is accompanied by a two-page letter signed by Michael Steele, chairman of the national Republican party. The letter accuses Democrats of “moving swiftly to bring European-style socialized medicine here,” but makes no mention of the possibility that Republicans might be denied coverage.
President Obama is seeing just how tough it is to deliver on his promise to the American people to ensure that everybody is covered with health care. What the Obama administration first announced as inevitable – an option for government-run coverage – now seems nearly impossible. And on Sunday the White House seemed to acknowledge that compromising with a stubborn Republican opposition was the only way it will accomplish its goal of covering the 50 million uninsured Americans. Facing mounting opposition during this congressional recess, it has become increasingly clear that the president would much rather abandon the public option than renege on his campaign promise – especially, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointed out, the government-run alternative is “not an essential element” of Obama’s overhaul plan. “I think there will be a competitor to private insurers,” Sebelius said. “That’s really the essential part, is you don’t turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing.” President Obama, speaking at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colo., said, “All I’m saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”
President Obama wants the nation to know that the rumors roiling about government-sponsored “death-panels” included in his health proposal are not true. In fact, the rumors have gotten so out of hand that the president has launched a full-time campaign to counter the myth that panels would be established to determine which patients deserve to live. Adding to the controversy, some leading Republican politicians, including ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and longtime Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, have been perpetuating the false rumors. As The New York Times reports this week, “There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure. But over the course of the past few months, early, stated fears from anti-abortion conservatives that Mr. Obama would pursue a pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia agenda, combined with twisted accounts of actual legislative proposals that would provide financing for optional consultations with doctors about hospice care and other ‘end of life’ services, fed the rumor to the point where it overcame the debate.” John Rother, executive vice president of AARP, which is supportive of the health care proposals, told The New York Times that the “I guess what surprised me [about the rumors] is the ferocity, it’s much stronger than I expected. It’s people who are ideologically opposed to Mr. Obama, and this is the opportunity to weaken the president.” The White House has added a new page on its Web site, lambasting the exaggerated claims by conservatives that have gone viral. “This isn’t about politics. This is about people’s lives,” Obama says on the site, whitehouse.gov/realitycheck. Also on the page are videos with White House staffers addressing rumors that Obama’s plan will “euthanize” the elderly, or that health care would be “rationed” under a new health care plan.
When Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times asked President Obama about Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates’ arrest, the President got a few laughs from his audience, but gave a pointed response to the question.
First he issued the caveat: “I may be a little biased,” he said. “Skip Gates is a friend.”
“I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry. No. 2, the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionately. That’s just a fact.”
He capped it off with the joke that had his audience laughing. If he tried to jimmy his way into the White House, he said, “I’d get shot.”
Obama’s Approval Rating Slips President Obama, after enjoying astronomical approval ratings in the early months of his administration, now finds that public adoration is slipping. Six months into the job – and just when he needs the most love from the public and fellow lawmakers to win approval for his controversial health-care reform – his support on the issue has dipped below the 50 percent threshold for the first time, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals. When it comes to the economy and the behemoth federal budget, the president’s ratings also have dipped in recent weeks. The slide seems to reflect rising concerns over spending and the dismal job picture. Only about 51 percent of Americans say they approve of the way he is handling the job situation. New figures shows that the unemployment rate is now in double digits, 10 percent, in some 15 states and Washington, D.C. Obama’s overall approval rating is at 59 percent; about 37 percent of the public say they are not happy with the job he’s doing.
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