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  Obama Criticizes Congressional "Process" in Crafting HR Bill  

In an interview on ABC World News (1/15, lead story, 6:00, Sawyer), President Obama criticized the crafting of the congressional healthcare reform measures, admitting to "a legitimate mistake that I made in the course of the year, and that is that we had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances, that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right instead of getting the process right. ... I think the healthcare debate, as it unfolded, legitimately raised concerns, not just among my opponents but also amongst supporters, that we just don't know what's going on. And it's an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of backroom deals." Pressed about "these deals with Nebraska, with Florida," Obama replied, "Let's hold on a second, Diane. I think that this gets into a big mush. So let's just clarify. I didn't make a bunch of deals, alright. There is a legislative process that is taking place in Congress."


        The New York Times (1/26, Stolberg, Baker) reports, "How Mr. Obama will address healthcare in the State of the Union speech...remains an open question. Officials on Capitol Hill and at the White House said their talks on how to proceed with the legislation might not be resolved by Wednesday," which "could put Mr. Obama in the awkward position of talking about a measure that is on shaky ground."


        Democrats mull last-ditch strategy to pass healthcare bill. The AP (1/26, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports that Democratic congressional leaders "are uniting around their last, best hope for salvaging President Barack Obama's sweeping healthcare overhaul." Their plan "is to pass the Senate bill with some changes to accommodate House Democrats, senior Democratic aides said Monday," but it is "unclear that they will have the votes to move forward." The "new strategy is as politically risky as it is bold," because while there is "widespread support for Obama's goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans while trying to slow costs," polls "show the public is deeply skeptical of the Democratic bills, and Republicans would certainly accuse Democrats of ignoring voters' wishes."


        The Washington Times (1/26) reports that Democratic congressional leaders' "plan is to pass the Senate bill with some changes to accommodate House Democrats, senior Democratic aides said Monday. The procedural route -- known as reconciliation -- would allow a majority of 51 senators to amend their bill to address some of the major substantive concerns raised by the House."


GOP Requests Details on Whitehouse Health Care Talks

The Hill (1/26, Young) reports the House Energy and Commerce Committee "on Wednesday will consider a Republican measure demanding that President Barack Obama divulge details about his negotiations with healthcare interest groups." The resolution offered by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) "requests the Obama administration turn over documentation of its dealings with healthcare trade associations and a labor union." The markup "comes amid lingering distaste among lawmakers about special deals struck to advance the Senate version of healthcare reform, especially provisions in the legislation that provide more Medicaid funding for Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson's home state of Nebraska than for any other state."


        According to CongressDaily (1/26, Edney, subscription required), the resolution, authored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), "does not have any co-sponsors," but Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has "particularly criticized a White House and Senate Finance Committee deal with PhRMA." As covered in previous briefings, PhRMA agreed to "an $80-billion plan to help fund the overhaul and close" a Medicare prescription drug coverage gap in exchange for protection "from other cost-cutting attempts" aimed at the industry. Likewise, the hospital industry "cut a $155-billion deal, and unions worked with the White House to soften an excise tax on high-cost health plans." The Burgess resolution, however, "singles out the earliest attempt at a deal" when groups, including AHIP, PhRMA, the AHA and the SEIU "agreed to find $2 trillion in cost-cutting measures to help fund the overhaul."


NY Times Calls On Democrats Not to "give up" on Health Care Reform

Under the headline "Don't Give Up Now," the New York Times (1/26, A22) editorializes, "It would be a terrible mistake for Democrats to abandon comprehensive healthcare reform just because voters in the Massachusetts Senate race last week decided that they liked the Republican, Scott Brown, more than the Democrat, Martha Coakley." Coakley "ran an inept campaign. And the White House hasn't done enough to address voters' profound and legitimate fears about losing their jobs and their homes. But...Obama and Congressional Democrats have also clearly failed to explain why reform will make Americans' lives more secure -- not less."


        BGlobe urges Democrats to not abandon health reform. The Boston Globe (1/26) editorializes, "If Democrats use the Massachusetts election to abandon health reform, they won't be following the people's mandate -- they'll be defying it. And voters will rightly take revenge at the ballot box." The Globe adds that "the one way to make healthcare a reality for all Americans is for House members to swallow their misgivings and approve the Senate bill." The Globe concludes, "Congress should not walk away now from a reform that achieves a goal of presidents since Theodore Roosevelt -- that Americans have a right not to fear the denial of care or financial ruin because they lack what citizens of all other industrialized countries have: health insurance."


        WSJournal: Healthcare no longer among public's top priorities. The Wall Street Journal (1/26) editorializes that a new Pew poll found that healthcare is now just the eighth most important "top priority" for the nation, behind the economy, jobs, terrorism, Social Security, education, Medicare, and deficit reduction. The poll, according to the Journal, is evidence that the President's declining popularity is attributable to his focus on Democrats' reform plans. The Journal advises the President to discard existing reform legislation and begin again.


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