President Obama, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, said that the Senate shouldn’t delay Scott Brown’s seating as part of an effort to “jam” the health care bill through without him. But he also floated the idea of a scaled-back effort that would focus on the “core elements” that both parties could agree on.
Asked for his take on the health care process going forward, Obama said:
“I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on,” he said.
The president said there are “core elements” to the health care legislation that both Republican and Democrats agree on and they must come together to work for comprehensive reform.
“We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up,” he said. “And we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance for their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of this bill.”
This doesn’t exactly sound like a combative new Obama who is going to lead the charge to pass a health care bill by using the nuclear option of the reconciliation process. The problem Obama faces, however, is that it may be too late for him to pass even a watered-down reform package. Last year, when he was at the peak of his power and many believed a health care bill to be inevitable, he may have been able to box Republicans into a corner by taking a modest approach. Instead, he overinterpreted his mandate, and decided to swing for the fences with a costly proposal that would have the federal government’s hands on every aspect of the health care system. Now, we’re into late January in an election year. Going back to negotiations with Republicans now (which Harry Reid recently declared was a “waste of time”), at a time when Democrats have a weaker hand to play, would only drag on the process for several more months. And I don’t see how anybody would have the appetite for that.