Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Diagnoses vary in Washington, D.C., on status of health care reform

While no one is ready to declare that health reform initiatives being weighed by Congress are dead, Democrats and Republicans have very differing views of the condition of one final piece of comprehensive legislation.

Members of the White House took to the television airwaves Sunday (Jan. 24) to defend the months of work by both members of the Senate and House and continue to champion the need for health care reform, despite last week’s election of Scott Brown as the Republican successor to the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy.

Valerie Jarrett, a White House advisor, told NBC’s Meet the Press that Brown’s election, and the end of a filibuster-proof Senate, does not spell the end for reform efforts.

Jarrett said President Barack Obama will continue to “fight for the American people” and that the same climate that spurred reform – escalating costs and premiums and loss of coverage due to pre-existing conditions – remain.

“[The president is] going to fight for trying to get as absolutely as much as he can to reduce the cost of health care, to provide insurance, provide security and safety for those folks who have insurance now, all of the core principles that we set forth at the very beginning of the process; core principles, I might add, that were included in both the bill that was passed by the Senate and the bill that was passed by the House,” she said.

White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod shared a similar message on ABC’s “This Week,” indicating that a recent Washington Post poll on Brown’s win indicates that the majority of people still want health care reform.

“They want us to address their concerns with the program, and they want Brown to come and work with us and not be obstructionist,” he said. “That was very clear in the polling.”

Axelrod added that “the foolish thing to do would be for anybody else who supported this to walk away from it, because what’s happened is, this thing’s been defined by insurance company – insurance industry propaganda, the propaganda of the opponents, and an admittedly messy process leading up to it…But the underlying elements of it are popular and important.”

The need to ‘start over’
While the White House seeks to press on, Republicans want to restart the whole reform effort from the beginning.

Mitch McConnell
On “Meet the Press,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the message in Massachusetts was “absolutely” clear.

“What we really need to do is start over,” McConnell, of Kentucky, said. “The American people had a victory in Massachusetts, and they were sending us the message ‘stop and start over.’”

McConnell added that there is not one Republican who would vote for any Democratic health care reform initiative that currently exists.

“Well, this comprehensive bill? Of course not. You know, the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to it,” he said, hesitant to deem the current bills as “dead.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who last year compared stopping Obama’s reform efforts to “his Waterloo,” told “This Week” that what happened in Massachusetts last week was part of “an American awakening.”

“The Republicans want to work with the Democrats on improving health care, focusing on jobs,” he said. “There are a number of other priorities. But for this first year, the president really believed that he could steamroll the Republicans, not even have us in the same room, and in the process, he was steamrolling the American people, not listening to what they were saying.”

DeMint added that “hopefully, the president will stop this effort to take over our health care system,” and refocus his efforts on jobs and the economy.

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