President Prepares for Pivotal Health Care Speech

“I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last,”Mr. Obama will say in a prime-time speech to Congress and the nation.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds on the Wednesday morning talk shows and emphasized that President Obama will speak about “specific ideas” in his speech.

“What we’re going to hear tonight is, the president’s going to speak clearly and directly to the American people about what’s in this bill for them,” Gibbs said, reported the Associated Press.

White House aides told the Wall Street Journal the president is likely to argue that the controversial public option would not receive a level of subsidies that would give it an unfair advantage in the market against private companies.

But Republican opposition to the plan remains high, and has galvanized the party in recent months. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said Wednesday “the idea that the federal government can come in and be the same as Allstate in providing insurance, that’s ridiculous,” according to the Associated Press.

The president made his goal clear in a Wednesday morning interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We do intend to get something done this year,” said President Obama, adding that he is still open to new ideas. “We’re not being rigid and ideological about this thing.”

Despite the outcry against the public option and health reform seen at many of the town hall meetings held across the country, Democrats remain determined to see a bill of some sort through.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told the New York Times Tuesday that “the inability to act here will have political consequences.”

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, circulated a proposal earlier this week that would cost $900 billion over 10 years and guarantee coverage for nearly all Americans.

“The most remarkable component of this plan is what is not in it, which is the public option,” Washington Post reporter Shailagh Murray said on the NewsHour Tuesday. “It has the cooperative approach…that is an effort by Sen. Baucus and his fellow negotiators to find some common ground.”


Senator Baucus’ plan is significant too, said Time reporter Karen Tumulty on the NewsHour, because it gives the president momentum going into Wednesday night.

When the president goes in front of Congress Wednesday night, it will be “on the verge of a lot more progress than we have seen in an issue that has defeated a lot of presidents,” said Tumulty.

Public support for the plan, however, has dropped some over the past month; a CBS poll at the end of August found that 60 percent of Americans support the idea oh health reform, down from 66 percent in July.

The country is nearly split on support for the president, about half the respondents to the CBS poll said he has better ideas on health care than Republicans, and an August Pew poll found that 50 percent of the respondents approved of “the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president.”

The Pew poll also found that 56 percent of Americans say they believe the president is looking out for them on health care. Only 45 percent thought Congressional Democrats were, and 39 percent, said they think Congressional Republicans could improve the health care system.
“For all the public’s reservations about health care reform,” Andrew Kohut, director of Pew’s polling told Fox News, “Barack Obama continues to enjoy the confidence of a majority of the public with regard to this issue.”