Various media outlets are reporting that President Obama is going to address the joint session of Congress on September 9, one week from today to try to take charge of the health care debate. CNN Politics is reporting the following:
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: …This will be the president’s second speech to a joint session of Congress this year alone. Back in February, it was — that speech was all about the economy. This one, of course, will be trying to sell health care reform.
Bill Clinton used this very weapon before in September 1993. Of course, that did not work out for him. And this White House is hoping, though, that they can use this tool to really grab the nation by the lapels and get a lot more specific than the president has been before. I’m told by top aides the president has been considering this option for several weeks. He finally gave the go-ahead in the last couple of days that it’s time to use this option.
There have been a series of top-level meetings here at the White House today and yesterday among staff to figure — figure out exactly what the president is going to say.
And I’m also told that next Tuesday afternoon, the president, the day before the speech, is going to host Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid here at the White House Tuesday afternoon to kind of run through the final details with them.
But what we’re hearing right now is that the possibility of a public option is not completely off the table, but it’s becoming less and less of an option right now, because they realize the political reality, that it would be very hard to get a public option through the Senate right now.
Henry then gives a possible playbook for what we’re likely to see.
My colleague Dana Bash and I have learned from a source, each one of us, that this White House right now is very quietly in serious conversations with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, a key moderate.
She is basically the last Republican out of those gang of six senators who have been negotiating, really the last Republican that has an open line to this White House right now.
What we’re hearing that she’s talking about with White House staff is sort of a scaled-back bill that would focus on insurance reforms that both sides could agree to, but would not have a full public option, instead, would have a so-called trigger. What that means in layman’s terms is basically that the insurance companies would have a couple of years to make some dramatic changes.
If they do not make those changes, then a public option would be triggered. So, it would be used down the road. They would hope that this would appease liberals by saying it’s not completely off the table. And the big hope is that this could bring along another moderate Republican, like maybe Susan Collins of Maine, some conservative Democrats, like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu in the Senate, who don’t want a public option, but would sort of potentially be open to a trigger like this.
If that sound familiar, it should – it’s pretty much the same scenario as the GM takeover.
It should be noted that new figures today from CNN/Opinion Research Corporation show support for Obama’s plan dipping below 50% for the first time.
Aug. 28-31 July 31-Aug. 3 June 26-28
Favor 48% 50% 51%
Oppose 51% 45% 45%
No opinion 2% 5% 4%
RNC Chairman Michael Steele issued this statement, “Obviously, we want to hear what the President has to say, but the American people don’t want a new speech, they want a new plan. We need to scrap the Democrats’ government takeover of health care and start over on a real, bipartisan plan for reform.”