Obama May Get More Specific About Health Overhaul

President Barack Obama has talked a lot about health care lately, but some allies say he has been too vague. Now he's thinking of throwing more details and personal weight into the debate, which polls indicate Republicans have been winning in recent weeks.

Faced with falling approval ratings and increasingly impatient with Senate negotiations, Obama is considering a speech in the next week or so in which he would be "more prescriptive" about what he feels Congress must include in a health bill, top adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday in an interview.

The speech might occur before the Sept. 15 deadline the White House gave Senate negotiators to seek a bipartisan bill, Axelrod said. He suggested that two key Republicans have not bargained in good faith.

Congress reconvenes next Tuesday after an August recess in which critics of Obama's health proposals dominated many public forums.

Some Obama allies feel he gave too much leeway to Congress, where one bill has passed three House committees, another has passed a Senate committee and a third has been bogged down in protracted negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee.

Axelrod indicated that Obama would not offer new proposals but would be more specific about his top priorities.

"The ideas are all there on the table," Axelrod said. "Now we are in a new phase, and it's time to pull the strands of these together."

He said there is serious discussion in the White House of Obama "giving a speech that lays out in specific ways what he thinks" about the essential elements of a health care bill.

Axelrod said it was possible that the speech could occur before a planned Sept. 15 Obama address on health care in Pittsburgh.

Obama has called for innovations such as a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers, but he has not insisted on it. It was not clear Tuesday the degree to which he might press for various proposals in a new speech.

Obama also plans to meet with Democratic congressional leaders when lawmakers reconvene next week.

Axelrod condemned recent comments by two chief Senate Republican negotiators — Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming — who have sharply criticized key elements of Democrats' health care plans even as they insisted that a workable bipartisan plan was possible.

Their remarks, Axelrod said, "were not exactly consistent with good-faith negotiations."

In an August fundraising letter, Grassley asked people for "support in helping me defeat Obama-care." He said Democratic-drafted bills would be "a pathway to a government takeover of the health care system."

Enzi, in a radio address Saturday, said Democratic proposals would restrict medical choices and make the country's "finances sicker without saving you money."

The two men are part of a six-senator, bipartisan negotiating team that also includes GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. Hopes for a workable bipartisan plan have dimmed in recent weeks, and Axelrod's comments were the most dismissive yet from a White House official.

Congress' August recess was brutal for Obama and his allies, as lawmakers faced raucous crowds denouncing Democrats' health proposals. When Congress comes back Tuesday, Democratic leaders hope to change the dynamic by holding quiet, closed-door sessions with nervous colleagues and arguing that far-reaching health care changes can be good politics as well as good policy.

They also hope GOP-led opposition has peaked. But that's far from clear, and Republicans are eager to hand Obama his first major defeat.

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 53 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama's handling of health care, while 44 percent approved. In March, far more people had approved than disapproved.

Liberal groups have held hundreds of events in a bid to show that a robust overhaul is more popular than August's news reports would suggest.

The message lawmakers will hear when they return to Washington "will be very different than what they heard when August started," said Jacki Schechner of Health Care for America Now. One idea her group will stress, she said, is that the politically smart vote, even in toss-up districts, will support widespread changes meant to expand health insurance coverage and options.

Nervous Democratic lawmakers need to be told, "You got elected to do something," she said. "And you might get re-elected if you actually do something."

Republicans approach Labor Day feeling upbeat about the ground they gained during the August recess. Some are confident that no amount of closed-door hand-holding of nervous Democratic lawmakers will reverse the momentum.

"After a disastrous month at home, the fact that Democrats' new health care strategy is to hide in Washington from the people who elected them to get health care passed shows what bad shape they're in," said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

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  • by Wow Location: Greenville on Sep 6, 2009 at 05:06 AM
    Whatever Snake Oil. With all the bills congress has to vote on, there are no congressmen that sit and read all 1000 pages of anything. Their aides give them the gist of the bill and lobbyists give them thousands of dollars to influence their vote. The constituents call and write in and that really does help to influence the way they vote. I actually have read the bill. It was not really that long but it was boring to read. I understand most of it, but there are several points that are vague and could be seen in a light that they were probably not intended to be seen in. (ex. "death panels") That said, our country needs a universal system. It's worked better everywhere else it has been applied. Those countries had the same arguments ours is having now years ago. Just try taking away their universal system and reinstating a system like the USA has presently! They would rise up and riot the streets! Still, no one can give me an answer - why won't it work here??
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 5, 2009 at 04:41 PM
    Lavon, awaiting your reply. Wow, I assume you read and interpreted all 1000 pages of the bill? When you vote for something you have no read, no one has enough time to read it or understand it, don't you see a problem here? The people involved with it are from Bill Ayers, the terriorist and you have no problem with it? Now, go do you homework, that was a koolaid statement. Every senator and congressman works for us, not for Obama, thats the problem right now.
  • by Wow Location: Greenville on Sep 4, 2009 at 06:55 PM
    Morgan- The majority of people DO want health care reform. How to go about it is the problem, because everyone wants something different and what seems like the best deal to one person may not be the best deal to another person. I would prefer to see a system implemented that offers health care to every single American regardless of pre-existing conditions or how much they can afford to pay. To exclude someone from having basic health care because they can't afford it or if having a medical emergency that could bankrupt them is what needs to change. Everyone pays into the system and for once everyone gets something out of what they put in! Economies of scale at work. Hospitals see decreased and regulated costs for procedures -but- they don't have to spend as much administratively because they know they are going to get reimbursed. Obama's plan isn't perfect but it really is a very moderate approach compared to single payer or the completely broken system we have now!
  • by Morgan Location: Eastern, NC on Sep 4, 2009 at 01:12 PM
    Has anyone ever thought and wondered why is Obama pushing this health care program so hard and really doesn't care what the majority of the people think?? Doesn't this seem fishy??
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 4, 2009 at 06:37 AM
    Lavon, I am in agreement that something need to be fixed with healthcare. I do not agree that government run, has ever fixed anything. In your example of 20,000 balance, the chosen one would not have allowed that to happen in the first place, you would have been denied the treatment. The big issue here is where is the transparency? Did you know what was in the bill? Did anyone in the house know what was in the bill? Something as important as healthcare and no one read it and you are OK with that? If you think the young outnumber the old, then you are mistaken. You can look of the census numbers and will see they are the most powerfull lobby in the country. They decide who goes into the whitehouse, not you and me. Now that he has made seniors mad, he is another one term guy.
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Sep 3, 2009 at 10:08 AM
    Ok Snake Oil whatever you say. If thats what you want to believe to try and convince yourself that Obama is not going to win again in 2012 then have at it my friend. Oh and by the way the sleeping giant is our youth and not the elderly. You see Snake Oil what you fail to realize is this. When the average American get home at night and turn on the Tv and watch News, everyone has a right to their own opinion about healthcare. But when they pull out their medical bills and see a 20,000 balance on an operation they have had, do you know what their going to say? Their going to say the heck with this im going with Obama because to be quite frankly the Republicans are blowing hot air but have no ideas or anything to bring to the table. Thats whats going to make the difference Snake Oil.
  • by lm Location: nc on Sep 3, 2009 at 06:39 AM
    Get more specific about the health care bill?? Is he joking?? Does this mean he will actually tell the truth??
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 3, 2009 at 05:40 AM
    Lavon, a healthcare bill may pass, just not this one. If they do you can say good bye to your one term president and both houses democrats. The light you had surrounding the chosen one has faded into fog. He woke the sleeping giant, the elderly, god help him now. He is history, kaputz, a memory, who will follow the likes of ole Jimmy Carter. I guess you will fade away just like him, the worst president in history is yours.....
  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:35 PM
    Lavon, I know you are looking for a free health care bill, but even you know "nothing is free". Lavon, keep that job and pay those taxes.
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Sep 2, 2009 at 06:36 AM
    Hey Snake Oil what are you going to say when we pass this healthcare bill??
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