Could this be a sign of real progress on meaningful healthcare reform, that the Republican’s are now attacking the plan and that the Democrats seem to be willing to go ahead for what is in the best interest of the people, without bi-partisan support? The Democrats have the votes, if they can close ranks. It would be a great sign of Obama’s leadership if he can get a public option plan thru Congress.
Date: 7/20/2009 9:29 AM
DAVID ESPO,AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Republican Party is accusing President Barack Obama of conducting “risky experimentation” with his health care proposals, saying they will hurt the economy and force millions to drop their current coverage.
Michael Steele, in remarks prepared for delivery at the National Press Club, also said the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key congressional committee chairmen are part of a “cabal” that wants to implement government-run health care.
“Obama-Pelosi want to start building a colossal, closed health care system where Washington decides. Republicans want and support an open health care system where patients and doctors make the decisions,” Steele said in excerpts of his speech made available in advance.
Obama has repeatedly said he does not favor a government-run health care system. Legislation taking shape in the House envisions private insurance companies selling coverage in competition with the government.
Even so, numerous Republicans in Congress continue to level the accusation at Obama and congressional Democrats, and Steele did so in sharply critical terms.
“Many Democrats outside of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Waxman cabal know that voters won’t stand for these kinds of foolish prescriptions for our health care. We do too. That’s why Republicans will stop at nothing to remind voters about the risky experimentation going on in Washington,” the party chairman said in advance excerpts. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is Senate majority leader; Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Republican officials said they were supplementing Steele’s speech with a round of television advertising designed to oppose government-run health care. The 30-second spot, titled “Grand Experiment,” criticizes recent government aid to the auto industry and banks as “the biggest spending spree in our history” and warns of “a risky experiment with our health care.”
In his speech, Steele broadened his attack beyond health care to question Obama’s truthfulness.
The president “tells us he doesn’t want to spend more than we have, he doesn’t want the deficit to go up, he doesn’t want to live off borrowed money. But he also told us he didn’t want to run an auto company. President Obama justifies this spending by saying the devil made him do it. He doesn’t want to spend trillions we can’t afford, but he says he just can’t help it,” Steele said in the prepared excerpts.
The Republican chairman is making his speech at a time when Obama is struggling to advance his trademark health care proposal after a period of evident progress. Two of three House committees have approved their portions of the bill, while one of two Senate panels have acted.
But conservative Democrats have raised objections to some elements of the legislation, and efforts in the Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement have yet to bear fruit. Obama’s attempt to impose an early August deadline on both the House and Senate for passage of legislation is in jeopardy.
On Sunday, Obama’s advisers urged critics of their health care overhaul to wait for Congress to finish writing legislation before issuing verdicts. They also signaled they are willing to wait longer than their White House-imposed August deadline for action if it means they can sway wary lawmakers.
The White House spent the day defending Obama’s health care proposals and stressing that Congress has not yet written the final draft of legislation that would dramatically reshape how Americans receive health care. Instead, they said, Republicans — and even some Democrats — should wait until a final bill takes form.
“There are basically five different plans in Congress right now and there are a variety of ways,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, trying to calm nervous lawmakers whose re-elections could hinge on the legislation.
“More will be done,” she said. “The House and the Senate are committed to working with the president to get this done.”
Getting it done by August, though, appeared to be pushed back. Administration officials said they still have a goal for the Senate and the House to pass separate bills before an August recess, leaving reconciliation of their differences for September or later. But they slid away from a once-firm do-it-this-summer demand.
“We think we can make that. We’re working towards that,” White House budget director Peter Orszag said. “And we have to remember, there are some who are advocating the delay simply because they don’t have anything to put on the table. … There are those who are advocating delay just as a desperation move to try to kill this.”
Time would appear to be on the Republicans’ side, however. A Washington Post-ABC News survey released Monday shows approval of Obama’s handling of health care reform slipping below 50 percent for the first time. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Associated Press Writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.