Obama pushes hard on healthcare; enlists bloggers

Obama is trying to harness the power of the liberal blogosphere to help support his healthcare agenda

Published July 21, 2009 12:22PM (EDT)

Even as legislation stalls in Congress, President Barack Obama is continuing his recent push to get healthcare reform passed by August. In an appearance on the Today Show this morning (video is below), Obama tackled his critics, including South Carolina Gov. Jim DeMint, who recently said that healthcare could be Obama's "Waterloo."

Obama said he remains "optimistic" about getting healthcare reform passed this year. When asked whether his August deadline for healthcare measures to emerge from Congress was too ambitious, Obama responded, "The default in Washington is inaction and inertia and there’s a reason why we haven’t had health care reform in 50 years. The deadline’s not being set by me. The deadline’s being set by the American people.”

But how realistic is it that the August deadline will be met? The New York Times reports that Congressional Democrats are backing away from their pledge to have a measure ready by August. And on Monday, though White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated that Obama wants legislation in his hands by the time Congress leaves on its August recess, he seemed to somewhat soften the administration's stance on the issue. Gibbs told reporters, "The president believes we’re making good progress, and the president believes we can get this done by August ... We’re working with the Finance Committee to see what progress can be made.”

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 Here's a look at what else is happening on the healthcare front today:

  • Obama appears to be trying to harness the power of the liberal blogosphere to get healthcare reform through Congress. Monday, he had a conference call with some leading progressive bloggers and encouraged them to support his administration's healthcare agenda. Ezra Klein writes that Obama seemed to make clear during the call that he believes conference committees are where the administration has the best chance of getting Congress to write the type of legislation that they want. As reported by Americablog, Obama fielded questions from John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Jonathan Singer of MyDD, David Dayen of D-Day, Cheryl Contee of Jack and Jill Politics, Gerald Weinand of DirigoBlue.com, and Joan McCarter from DailyKos. Huffington Post's Sam Stein writes that Obama said, "I know the blogs are best at debunking myths that can slip through a lot of the traditional media outlets ... And that is why you are going to play such an important role in our success in the weeks to come." You can listen to all 24 minutes of the conference call here, via Crooks and Liars.
  • The Washington Post says that Republicans have become emboldened by polls suggesting that the public is growing more unhappy with the way Obama is handling healthcare and the economy and that they are increasing their attacks against him on those issues.
  • The Post also has a story on the huge amount of funding Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. has received from the healthcare industry since he took the lead in writing the Senate's version of a reform bill.
  • On Monday, some leading Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, suggested they are considering restructuring a proposed tax on the U.S.'s wealthiest citizens to cover the cost of healthcare reform so that fewer people would have to pay the tax.
  • Perhaps some good news for Obama: Over the weekend, Olympia Snowe, a Republican Senator from Maine, said that healthcare reform must include a public option.
  • Monday, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. said that he believes Obama will fail on healthcare reform because "he's trying to convince America to be something other than America."
  • Not to be outdone, Bill Kristol is advocating that when it comes to Obama's healthcare reform, Republicans "go for the kill."

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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