On Thursday, President Obama invited two groups of Democrats to the White House to enlist their aid in passing health reform legislation, CQ Today reports.
The invitations are a continuation of more direct efforts by Obama to guide the reform process, following his bipartisan health reform summit and the release of his own overhaul proposal (Wayne et al., CQ Today, 3/4).
Liberal House Members
The first group that Obama invited to the White House was a selection of liberal House members who are considering withholding their support for reform because current proposals lack a public option (Stolberg, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 3/4).
According to lawmakers, Obama assured the House members that health reform is only the first step in addressing all of the problems of the U.S. health system (CQ Today, 3/4).
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Obama acknowledged that he supports a public option but said that "the votes aren't there" (Youngman, The Hill, 3/4).
The second group invited by Obama comprised leaders of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, which includes members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, who have expressed concerns about reforming health care while the economy is in recession.
Obama told the group's members that current reform proposals would create jobs, according to Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) (CQ Today, 3/4).
Lawmakers said Obama asked them to put aside their political concerns and embrace their sense of duty and history to pass the overhaul (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 3/5).
In addition, Obama noted that the strength of his presidency could depend on Democrats' ability to pass reform legislation, according to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) (CQ Today, 3/4).
Gibbs Confirms Timeline
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the Senate reform bill (HR 3590) is on schedule to be passed by the House by March 18, confirming timelines released earlier this week by other Democratic leaders.
Gibbs also said that work on a separate health bill that would apply changes to the Senate measure through budget reconciliation could take longer (Shear, Washington Post, 3/5).