Months before President Obama began his crusade to bring about health care reform, he was warned that it would be an uphill battle, a Sisyphean mission. Last Thursday, in a rare summit meeting with the president, Republican senators and representatives rejected his plan to provide 30 million people with health insurance.
After several hours before a national audience viewing the proceedings on C-SPAN trying to convince the political leaders across the aisle of the necessity of getting millions of Americans health insurance, Obama was clearly exasperated, but vowed to press on “by any means necessary” to get his reform bill approved.
It appears the only option remaining is budget reconciliation, which would sidestep the Republican Party’s filibustering and pass on a majority vote of at least 51 senators.
This course of action is not as easy as it sounds because there is sure to be a number of procedural objections from the Republicans, and such a drastic measure would certainly put to rest Obama’s determination for bipartisanship.
Obama said at the outset of the summit that he hoped it would not turn into “political theater,” with each party attempting to score points and not deal with the critical issue before them. But the Republican obstinacy was apparent from the opening remarks from Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the party’s point man.
Alexander called on Obama to dump his health care reform proposal and start from scratch. He stressed that under Obama’s plan, insurance premiums would go up under his reform plan. The president quickly corrected him, citing the Congressional Budget Office’s report that premiums for individuals would actually be lower.
On several occasions, Obama was like the law school professor he once was, chastised, berating and correcting the inaccuracies and unsubstantiated assertions from the gaggle of opponents.
He chided House Minority Whip Sen. Eric Cantor of Virginia, who showed up with a stack of papers that Obama immediately deduced to be his proposal and an unnecessary prop. And there was a snappy exchange between Obama and Sen. John McCain after McCain recalled promises Obama had made during the campaign that he had not kept.
“This is not the campaign,” Obama responded, a fact McCain begrudgingly acknowledged.
Between lacerating and sparring with the Republicans, Obama found opportunities to restate his plan, which, he added repeatedly, included portions of the plans put forth by the Republicans, including the right for individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines.
But in the end, it was to no avail, as Obama virtually threw up his hands as they finished nearly seven hours of give-and-take.
“I’d like Republicans to do a little soul-searching and find out are there some things you’d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance,” Obama told the press.
Meanwhile, Obama endured another setback when White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers announced her resignation. No reason was given, but she caught heavy criticism when a couple crashed the administration’s first state dinner last November.
Rogers, Obama said of his longtime friend from Chicago, “was doing a terrific job” organizing hundreds of events during her yearlong tenure.
Her departure is slated to occur sometime next month, and Rogers, 50, told the Chicago Sun-Times that she was leaving because she had achieved a major goal of the Obamas: turning the White House into the “people’s house” by opening it up to many of those who normally do not get to visit.
“My work was really to create this framework. I think I completed that work,” Rodgers said. “Our office has been able to lay the foundation for what will be known as the ‘people’s house,’ and it has already taken shape.”