President Obama capped a tumultuous week on Saturday, and set the stage for this week, with a strong Saturday speech, that provided the strongest statement he's yet made on having a public option:
That’s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans – including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest – and choose what’s best for your family. And that’s why we’ll put an end to the worst practices of the insurance industry: no more yearly caps or lifetime caps; no more denying people care because of pre-existing conditions; and no more dropping people from a plan when they get too sick. No longer will you be without health insurance, even if you lose your job or change jobs.
That signaled the beginning of what will be Obama's week of healthcare reform bully-pulpit barnstorming. As WaPo notes in a report today, he's set to "take the baton," and enter campaign mode again.
Senior White House aides promise "an aggressive public and private schedule" for Obama as he presses his case for reform, including a prime-time news conference on Wednesday, a trip to Cleveland, and heavy use of Internet video to broadcast his message beyond the reach of the traditional media.
"Our strategy has been to allow this process to advance to the point where it made sense for the president to take the baton. Now's that time," said senior adviser David Axelrod. "I don't know whether he will Twitter or tweet. But he's going to be very, very visible."
Another senior White House aide added: "It's time to raise the stakes on this."
The week started today with a healthcare roundtable at Children's National Medical Center.
Now, there are some in this town who are content to perpetuate the status quo, are in fact fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests. There are others who recognize the problem, but believe -- or perhaps, hope -- that we can put off the hard work of insurance reform for another day, another year, another decade.
Just the other day, one Republican senator said -- and I'm quoting him now -- "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses, and breaking America's economy.
And we can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time. Not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake. There are too many families who will be crushed if insurance premiums continue to rise three times as fast as wages. There are too many businesses that will be forced to shed workers, scale back benefits, or drop coverage unless we get spiraling health care costs under control.
Hopefully, President Obama will also take charge of getting the Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House in line.
And a handful of moderate Democrats on that panel — members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition — have signaled they are not afraid to vote with Republicans and force major changes on the legislation, or stop it entirely, if their concerns are not satisfied.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that if the Blue Dogs join with the Republicans, they can bring this bill down," said Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman , D-Calif.
The caucus isn't big enough to challenge the progressive coalition on the floor, but they are overrepresented on E&C, and are doing everything in their power to exert their obstructionist influence there. They got an assist from a handful of freshmen Dems, led by politically inconsistent Jared Polis, who apparently don't think taxing the very wealthy for the public good is appropriate.
Constituent calls to these members, as slinkerwink advises are critical. But the phone call that would make the most difference would probably the one from the White House letting them know that they might be jeopardizing the backing of a very popular president in 2010.