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Obama Presser Highlights Stakes of Health Reform Push

BY Admin  July 21, 2009 at 9:51 PM EDT

President Obama, Getty Images

The news conference, the third of Mr. Obama’s administration, is part of a week-long media campaign to renew the drive on health care. President Obama started the week with an interview with Jim Lehrer on the
NewsHour.

The president has invested considerable political capital in pushing the Democratically-controlled Congress to develop health care reform legislation that expands coverage to people without health insurance and reduces some of the overall costs of health care.

The White House wants health care reform legislation in place before Congress takes its annual August recess. Tough political debate has centered on the price tag of the reform plan and on how new proposals – like a public insurance option — would operate.

Although versions of reform legislation have been approved in committees in the House and the Senate, a chorus of lawmakers from the president’s own party are threatening to derail the effort.

Politico reported Wednesday that a key group of conservative House Democrats, known as the Blue Dogs, want to delay the vote on the House version of the health care reform bill in order to get concessions from the White House on cost controls.

One Blue Dog Democrat told The Hill that cost is a major concern.

“It’s the spending and the cost. The [Congressional Budget Office score] last week was really a hit across the bow,” said Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind. “Blue Dogs took that as an opportunity to try and make some sense out of all the spending that’s in the bill. We must get it under control.”

Lawmakers from both parties have spoken out about delaying the bill, a move that reform supporters say is an effort to kill it.

“So I understand that some will try to delay action until the special interests can kill it while others will simply focus on scoring political points,” President Obama said Tuesday. “We’ve done that before. And we can choose to follow that playbook again, and then we’ll never get over the goal line and will face an even greater crisis in the years to come.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint made news earlier in the week by saying that health care reform will be Obama’s ”Waterloo.”

President Obama will likely find it harder and harder to sway lawmakers his way as his poll ratings slip on the issue. While his approval rating is a relatively high 60 percent, polling firm Gallup released a new poll Tuesday showed that more Americans disapprove of his reform efforts than approve.